over 3 years ago
** Note: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review **
Click, Double Click is a fascinating first novel, and it's not quite like anything I've ever read before. Author James Calum Campbell has created a curious mystery centered around a crossword puzzle and rooted in hospital culture, all told through the eyes of a doctor, Alastair Cameron-Strange, who certainly lives up to the second half of his surname.
Dr. Cameron-Strange struggles with problems at every level in Click, Double Click: there's his oddly-handled grief after the loss of his wife, his bureaucratic squabbles at the hospital where he works (showcasing Campbell's impressive knowledge of medical and hospital procedures), and the potentially disastrous plot he discovers hidden in a crossword puzzle (like I said, this is a unique read). The doctor even reflects on problems like his, in his signature ponderous prose:
"Whenever I read, say, a thriller, or a detective story (is that what this is, or is this a confession, a statement?) I often wonder at the protagonists' power of concentration on that matter at hand...Why are these people not preoccupied, as I am, with unpaid bills and tax returns, office drudgery, dental appointments, commitments various to close kin, extended family, friends, and the community at large? Why do they not even appear to take toilet stops? What about the inner life, the life of the mind? What book is the central character reading, keeping his place by turning down a page corner?"
As Dr. Cameron-Strange notes, the book is narrated as a kind of confession detailing the events surrounding the crossword puzzle plot, but it also contains much of the concerns he wonders about, grounding the novel more firmly in reality. This grounding admittedly renders the book almost tedious at times—Cameron-Strange is prone to reflective digressions like the one quoted above—but ultimately makes the excitement of the plot more frighteningly real.
Readers seeking a different kind of crime novel, one that features a doctor instead of a detective, and the prevention rather than the solving of a crime, will enjoy Click, Double Click. Seasoned crime readers will also likely enjoy the wry, contemplative voice of Campbell's borderline antihero.