‘After the sudden loss of his wife, Michael Turner moves to London to start again. Living on a quiet street in Hampstead, he develops a close bond with the Nelson family next door: Josh, Samantha and their two young daughters. The friendship at first seems to offer the prospect of healing, but then a devastating event changes all their lives, and Michael finds himself bearing the burden of grief and a terrible secret.’
The blurb of Owen Sheers’ I Saw a Man promises an interesting literary thriller. I enjoyed his earlier novel Resistance, and was suitably intrigued by this tale to jump right in after purchasing it. The writing was rather stylish, and there is definite beauty to be found in some of the descriptions.
The novel is marketed as a thriller, but if I was classifying myself, it isn’t a category which I would choose. There is a crime at its heart, but we learn more about the pasts of the characters before this is revealed. There are not the usual plot hooks or twists that I associate with thrillers in I Saw a Man; in fact, whilst relatively interesting, it isn’t very thrilling at all.
Where the problem lies here is with the characters. They felt a little distanced at first due to the perspective, which is undoubtedly necessary to the plot. As the novel went on, I found my interest waning due to the unnecessarily long, and often rather dull, backstory Sheers provided, and the way in which the protagonists were rather two-dimensional. Whilst Sheers captures emotion well, a lot of the conversations fell a little flat, and there is a lack of consistency with regard to the character development proposed here. The denouement was effective, but it wasn’t quite enough to pull the whole back for me. Thus, it oscillates between a two and three star rating.