TITLE: THE UNINVITED
AUTHOR: LIZ JENSEN
Details: Received from Bloomsbury Circus
Through Book Geeks
It starts with one child, a young girl, taking a nail gun and killing her grandmother before injuring her father for no apparent reason. It seems to be a random occurrence, a one-off event, tragic and shocking but unique. Hesketh Lock hears about this murder while on his way to the airport. He is travelling from England to Taiwan to investigate a bizarre corporate scandal.
Hesketh Lock has Asperger’s Syndrome and isn’t good at relationships or reading people. He is however very good at spotting and reading behaviour patterns which explains his job as trouble shooter for a company specialising in investigating corporate fraud, exposing it and eliminating it forever. However, his investigation in Taiwan doesn’t provide him with any useful or logical answers. If anything, his meeting with the man who exposed the scandal leaves Hesketh with more questions than answers. When his Taiwanese contact subsequently commits suicide the case becomes even murkier. Then things quickly escalate. More bizarre cases of corporate fraud are exposed, all apparently conducted by the most unlikely suspects who tend to be confused after their fraudulent acts and end up dying shortly afterwards. And at the same time more children, all over the world, are attacking and killing adults. With no apparent reasons for these murders and the children going through a dramatic change immediately before and after the violence, authorities are at a loss to explain what is happening. But the violence is spreading and panic, as well as all sorts of (conspiracy) theories are becoming rampant. When Hesketh establishes a link between the disruptions in the corporate world and the crimes committed by the children it appears to be an impossible proposition. With his stepson starting to exhibit troubling behaviour, Hesketh finds himself in a situation that could as easily overwhelm him as bring him to the realisation of what exactly is happening.
This story is shocking on several levels. First there is all the violence committed by children. It is never easy to read about children as the perpetrators of violent crime and since that is the central story-line in this book it is hard not to get emotionally involved. What makes the story even more disturbing is that it is written in such a way that you end up feeling that something like this could actually happen. Yes, it is a fantastical story line, but one based on enough fact to make it just about plausible. While reading this book I felt my heart breaking on several occasions; how could a parent, a family, the world ever hope to deal with children turning against the adults in their lives? And would we really react in the way as described in this book?
In Hesketh Lock the author has created a fascinating protagonist. Because of his Asperger’s he is logical to a fault. This makes him the perfect narrator for this story in which the events taking place are so horrific that non-sentimental descriptions are necessary if the reader is going to stick with the story. Hesketh has a linear way of thinking which is brutally honest and at times heartbreaking. He is very aware of his shortcomings and completely unable to do anything about them. That is not to say he should be pitied; Hesketh is very secure in the knowledge that there are certain things he can do better than most people because his special make-up means he’s better equipped to do them. He is, for example very quick to observe patterns where others see none.
“Perhaps she pities me. It’s a frequent mistake. People misunderstand who I am, and assume I want to be like them. I don’t.”
Hesketh’s former partner and the mother of his stepson used to call him “A robot made of meat.” And although he doesn’t think he is such a robot there comes a time when Hesketh thinks that being just that might be what he needs.
This book is very well written and almost too easy to read. A story like this should be read slowly, but Liz Jensen’s writing is so fluid that I found myself turning the pages at a quick pace regardless of the horrors that were taking place on them. And maybe that is exactly what is needed with a story as shocking as this one. I think I might have put the book aside if I had allowed myself too much time to linger on exactly what was happening. That would have been such a waste though. Combining several genres – mystery, psychological thriller, and dystopian-apocalyptical nightmare - this is a highly original, thought-provoking, very well written and intriguing story.