The Victim, by Max Manning

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Max Manning, and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Max Manning develops an interesting approach to this story, using the narrative to tell two stories with loose parallels. This approach will work for some but leave other writers scratching their heads. Perhaps this was the intended end result, though I leave that to the individual reviewer. Gem Golding decides to stop in at the local store for someone on her way home from work. Little does she know, but her life is about to change quite dramatically. While in the parking lot, she is approached by a man who pulls out a knife and attacks her. It is here that Manning offers his literary fork in the road. In one version, Gem bows down to the man and allows him to take her car, injuring her in the struggle. Thereafter, she must live with the pain of being victimised and she becomes part of the headlines as the search for the attacker heats up. Personal loss follows and she is left waiting for the police to catch the man who turned her life upside down. In the alternative reaction, Gem refuses to stand down and eventually maims her attacker, receiving praise in all media outlets and helping the police as much as possible as they hunt down the attacker. As each story progresses, the reader learns more about the story from a variety of angles: Gem, her boyfriend, the attacker, the police, and even a journalist. All this comes together in a heart stopping culmination, where the reader can decide which of the two Gems they choose to be the true protagonist of the story. An interesting approach that will keep the reader thinking until the final page flip and shape the story throughout. Recommended to those who enjoy something a little different with their reading experience, particularly the reader who enjoys parallel narratives.

I have never read Max Manning before this novel, though this was surely an interesting introduction. The premise of this novel permits the reader to feel as though they are reading two stories in one, weaving the plots together and interchanging characters at will. Gem Golding is hard to gauge, particularly because it really depends which of the two you pick as your ‘true protagonist’. She can either be a weak and vulnerable woman who has to deal with having been attacked and then facing personal tragedy that only compounds the event, or she is a strong woman who overcame adversity and is lauded in the media as a hero for stopping what could have been a violent attack. Manning offers both these women up but does not seem to lean in either direction. There is a great supporting cast who works effectively to promote either Gem—interesting that both versions of the story use the same supports—and are helped along by an effective narrative. While some are surely more endearing than others, Manning creates a wonderful character base throughout. The story, while unique, is also well written and allows the reader to move between the two parallels with ease, hoping to find a happy home with a different set of readers. Short chapters push the story forward and keeps the reader wanting to complete the reading task in short order. I’ll definitely try some more Manning in the future, particularly if he uses this same technique in other novels.

Kudos, Mr. Manning, for this curious approach to a thriller. I am intrigued and I hope others find this style as enticing as I did.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: