Jasper shouldn’t require any kind of introduction, but for those who haven’t come across his work, here’s that intro:
I first came across Jasper’s work in 2008, and would you believe I passed on a copy of Twelve without reading it… I was lucky enough to receive another copy and read and loved it. Twelve kicked off a sprawling vampire-epic (which I, admittedly, haven’t finished yet – need to remedy that…) and in Late Whitsun, Jasper has given us something different – an investigative mystery taking place in his hometown of Brighton.
Late Whitsun introduces Charlie Woolf, and when we meet him, he’s sketching portraits. He comes across as weathered, roughed up by life, but by pursuing the talent he has he also shows an emotional depth and observant side which give him great depth as a character. (One of the things I simply cannot believe (or like) as a reader is when a character in First Person POV seems to know everything and doesn’t sound normal; I’ve always thought of First Person POV as the reader being a passenger in the character’s head, not the reader reading a voluminous journal written by the character (it’s a personal thing; I like being the passenger more than reading journals). Thankfully, Jasper doesn’t give the reader a journal to read – we are the passengers.) We see what Charlie sees as he sees it, descriptions which are informed by the character’s knowledge or personal connections, and there’s no describing what happens where Charlie isn’t. It left me with the feeling that we were moving through many connected ‘worlds’ instead of just shifting from scene to scene and plot-beat to plot-beat. Also kept the pace flowing nicely and held my focus the entire time.
Plot-wise, things kick off when Woolf is asked to deliver a package by an old acquaintance – this simple request turns out not to be simple at all and launches Woolf into the sights of various people, including some investigating the a murdered man connected to Woolf and others who might know something about the dead man or his killer. What seems like a tried and tested plot is made fresh and exciting by not only the great pacing (Jasper keeps Woolf going and searching and questioning) and the way in which he reveals the Brighton of that time and its people and flavors, but also because the main mystery is not the only mystery – the intrigue builds. connecting various characters and events in clever ways so that when Jasper launches into the climax, the end is satisfying and exciting and memorable.
I’ve never been to Brighton (nor the UK, for that matter), so I can’t say that Jasper captured the feeling and look of the city, but if he didn’t, I’ll be really surprised; I felt like I was travelling through a living, breathing city with one of its best tour guides – a feat which many authors do get right, but at the expensive of their characters and the book’s pacing. Not the case here.
The flavor of the day (speaking as a bookseller) seems to split between three types of books: psychological thrillers (because publishers are still looking for the next The Girl on the Train), the next big Scandinavian crime hit, and something between Thomas Harris and James Patterson – Late Whitsun is a the kind of book you enjoy with a glass of your favorite drink, relaxing and comfortable. It’s a slow, increasing smolder that might give you a blister instead of singeing all your hair away – but that’s why I enjoyed it so much, too. While the pace did kick up, and up, and up as the book reached its climax, I never once felt that I was rushing through it and skipping sentences or paragraphs. It’s the kind of mystery you enjoy, not the kind you feverishly munch popcorn to.
All in all, a really great read and journey, introducing a memorable, layered character whom I look forward to reading more about. Have to give this one a 9/10.
Until next time, which might be a couple of weeks as I’m heading to Australia for a holiday,