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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Ancient Drama, Modern Blood

The Amber Fury - Natalie Haynes

Published with an endorsement on the cover from S J Watson, The Amber Fury is being billed as a 'thriller' and a 'page-turner'. This seems to me to be an example of what happens when the marketing department is allowed too much influence in a book's categorisation. Yes, there is murder here - two murders in fact - but Natalie Haynes' fictional debut is really a novel of ideas.


Alex, a promising young theatre director, whose boyfriend was killed while intervening to protect a woman in a street brawl, moves to Edinburgh to start a new life and takes on a job teaching in a unit for children expelled from the regular state system. 


She decides to teach her class of problematic fifteen-year-olds about Greek drama and in a series of distinctly improbable conversations that takes up most of the first hundred pages, they discuss plays plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides.


The effect of considering all this heavyweight dramatic material laden with  explosive themes such as guilt and sacrifice , destiny and revenge is that one of her dysfunctional students becomes obsessed with the tragedy that overtook Alex before her arrival in Edinburgh and decides to intervene in her life, with dreadful consequences.


This is really interesting and thought-provoking premise. I enjoyed reading the novel greatly and it certainly fulfilled one of the author's intentions in that it made me want to go back and re-read those Greek tragedies. I just think that to label it as a thriller does the author no favours whatsoever.