Book Review: The Guard / Author: Peter Terrin / Publisher: MacLehose Press / Release Date: August 30th
The Guard is the first of Peter Terrin’s books translated for an English audience and, boy, is it a good one.
Terrin wastes no time sucking the audience into the narrative, giving you enough dialogue and character interaction to keep your interest yet still keeping his cards firmly glued to his chest. This is even more impressive when you consider that around four fifths of the novel take place in the same semi-confined location. Due to the restricted nature of the location and plot and the steady drip feed of questions, The Guard is certainly a book to be read in one sitting. But believe us when we say that this won’t be a problem, as once you get past the first few pages you simply won’t want to put the book down until you find out exactly what’s going on.
The premise of the novel is fairly simple. Michel, our eyes and ears, and Harry, his colleague, both work in the basement of a luxury block of high rise apartments for the vastly wealthy. Their job is to ensure that they guard the basement at all costs since it’s the only way in and out for the workers and the clients. They both work for ‘the organization’, a shadowy corporation that puts great emphasis on the absolute professionalism of its workforce and keeps them in line with promises of secure, luxury postings in ‘the elite’ - the best of the best. Of course, the ‘shadowy organization’ schtick has been used and abused by countless writers over the years, yet here Terrin gets it right by never having that aspect be too prominent.
Instead Terrin focuses on the more interesting aspects of the isolation Michel and Harry face. Since they essentially live in the basement 24/7 they have no idea what’s going on in the world. This really comes to a head early in the novel when all but one of the clients arrive at the basement one day, bags and coats in hand, to leave the apartments for good. What event could cause the clients to leave such a comfortable lifestyle all at once? Why is just one client staying behind? These are questions that Harry and Michel want answered and this is when the novel really kicks it into top gear.
We'd imagine the climax will have readers divided. It certainly gives you enough to keep you thinking long after the last page, yet we can’t help but think there should have been more, like Terrin simply forgot he had an Ace up his sleeve that he was supposed to show us at the end.