EXCHANGE PLACE

Written by Ciaran Carson

Review written by Calum MacLeod

Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.


EXCHANGE PLACE
The Blackstaff Press
RRP: £8.99
Released: 25th October 2012
Pbk

Belfast writer Carson’s new novel is a tale of two cities and two men.

Or perhaps two cities and one man. You have to keep your wits about you to be certain.

In Belfast John Kilfeather goes about a life centred on the reading, buying and writing of books, with a little spot of recreational drug use thrown in.  Over in Paris, near namesake John Kilpatrick wanders around the cafés and back alleys, encountering old friends and suspected spies who might hold clues to the whereabouts of a long lost friend and the significance of the briefcase he carries, but the deeper we go into the book, the more connected those two lives become.

This is a literary thriller with the emphasis very much on the literary and self-consciously so: as Kilfeather, Carson spends best part of two pages wondering why a translator opted to use “glamour” as a translation for prestige in one of Jean Cocteau’s books. Other allusions to books and writers abound.

Carson — a poet as well as a novelist and director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Belfast’s Queen’s University — plays with the reader’s perceptions as well as the thriller format, with spies who may be working for an agency that is more than political (think Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday) and a deliberate use of repetition as the tale spirals to a well telegraphed conclusion. For example, Kilfeather looks into a mirror in Belfast and gets all philosophical and a similar scene plays out later with Kilpatrick in Paris.

This is a novel that spires to be read to the accompaniment of Gauloises while sitting outside a Left Bank café. Commuters on the 7.50 may have less patience, especially if their tastes in the realm of the literary-thriller are heavily weighted towards the latter.

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