On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the debut thriller by Alan Johnson, The Late Train to Gipsy Hill. With thanks to Caitlin Raynor from Headline for sending me a copy of the book to review.
Gary Nelson has a routine for the commute to his rather dull job in the city. Each day, he watches as a woman on the train applies her make up in a ritual he now knows by heart. He’s never dared to strike up a conversation . . . but maybe one day.
Then one evening, on the late train to Gipsy Hill, the woman invites him to take the empty seat beside her. Fiddling with her mascara, she holds up her mirror and Gary reads the words ‘HELP ME’ scrawled in sticky black letters on the glass.
From that moment, Gary’s life is turned on its head. He finds himself on the run from the Russian mafia, the FSB and even the Metropolitan Police – all because of what this mysterious young woman may have witnessed. In the race to find out the truth, Gary discovers that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye . . .
The Late Train to Gipsy Hill is a very immersive read by Alan Johnson. It took me back to the time of the Salisbury poisonings back in 2018. Set in London, Alan Johnson explores a dark and shadowy world you wouldn’t want to be a part of.
A young woman, Arina, is on the run. Arina catches the eye of one man, Gary Nelson, while they are both on the train, but when she finally speaks to him, she asks him for his help after making a dreadful mistake. Gary has moved to London seeking adventure, although he now works in a mundane job. Gary and his friends are soon thrown into the dangerous world Arina is a part of, which puts all their lives at risk.
This was a really pacy and addictive crime thriller. I loved the atmosphere, and I thought that Gary and the friends he hung out with were very likeable. I felt that Gary would be a good person to have around if you were ever in a spot of trouble. He certainly isn’t afraid to get involved in anything that might put himself in danger. Knuckles, I think, was definitely my favourite. This is a dark and edgy book, but Alan Johnson also adds a touch of humour which I really liked.
The plot is very well built, and it didn’t at all feel over complicated as I was reading it. I was keen to know what was going to happen to Arina, and there are some tense scenes as the search for her turns up a notch. I thought this, particularly when the Russians were trying to get their hands on her. Alan Johnson paints a very clear picture that these are people who you do not want to get on the wrong side of. Alan Johnson creates a race against time feel to this book very well. I felt that if the characters put one foot wrong, it would have disastrous consequences for them all.
The ending of this book has left me wondering what is happening to the characters now. I think that is always the sign of a good book when you’re still thinking about the characters long after you have finished it.
The Late Train to Gipsy Hill is a very entertaining read, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Alan Johnson writes next.
Publication date: 2nd September 2021
Print length: 352 pages
The Late Train to Gipsy Hill is available to buy: