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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Survivor by Tom Doyle. Sydney: Macmillan, 2015


George rescues a baby in a burning building and, as a reward, wins a trip to Australia on an adventure trip run by a company called Ultimate Bushcraft. They send two young group leaders to collect the group of boys from the airport and, right from the time the plane leaves, nasty things begin to happen, starting with an anaphylactic attack suffered by a boy who has an allergy to nuts - an attack that is no accident. One by one the boys die in the wilderness. As the story is told in statements by various people - and the rants of the killer - the reader knows that it is over and that George has been accused of the murders.  

The author, a school principal(my guess is that it's a boys' school) who is writing under a pen name, knows how to keep boys turning pages. As a thriller it works well and I have no doubt that they will enjoy it; there are two other thrillers by this author that are doing very well. 

 The reader is fed quite a few red herring clues along the way as to who the killer might be, then they are all killed. That's fairly standard in a murder mystery, but it is usually possible to go back and realise the clues were there all along. I didn't feel that way this time. 

I also had my doubts as to the plausibility of a number of things that happened, not so much the killings as the group leader's response to them. I can't discuss many of them without spoilers, but one example is that when the first boy falls seriously ill in the wilderness(poison), he is left behind with a carer but not immediately sent off to hospital - flown off if necessary. I would have thought that the group leader would have a lot of first aid and possibly paramedic skills that would make him ask questions, check the symptoms and call for help, then wait until help arrived. But this doesn't happen; the rest of the group continue with their activities and leave without the victim. He goes to hospital too late. I realise that the whole point of the novel is for everyone to die except the hero(hence the title), but it just didn't make sense to me. 

In all fairness, I also thought a lot of things made no sense in The Da Vinci Code - it must be a thriller thing! They simply fall apart if the reader thinks too hard about them. Without this, thrillers just wouldn't work.

But this novel should work very well for boys from about thirteen up. I already have one waiting for this when I finish reviewing it.

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