Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For Review: Trackman ~ Catriona Child

It's amazing how a song can evoke a memory, and so strongly too. There are some songs that conjure up the tiniest little details in a memory, all the sights and smells and feelings. Davie is given an MP3 player from some dodgy guy. It doesn't have a play button, you can't remove the headphones, and it seems to have a life of its own. Actually, that's because it does: it finds people, and it plays them that special song.

Trackman's hook is its unusual premise, but the book itself is about so much more than a surreal MP3 player. Davie lives in Edinburgh and works in Virgin (which is some nice nostalgia itself!). He's got customers to deal with, and also some pretty lassies. Mostly, Davie is working through bereavement following the death of his brother. Initially, my interest in Davie was quite aloof - he didn't seem particuarly interesting, he didn't seem to have a lot to say for himself, but it was his relationship with his brother that really redeemed that. More than this, Catriona Child really carefully pulled out her slow reveal. At the start we have the immediate big picture - his parents have left him, his brother Lewis is dead. But the hows and the whys are very gently drawn out and the mega how of Lewis' death is left to the final pages and yes, it got me very teary eyed on the train while I was reading it. Ouch.

Regret is one of the most harrowing human emotions, and there's a huge deal of guilt going on in Davie's mind surrounding the death of his younger brother. At points it was painful to read, because the level of anxiety and guilt was huge and this really, for me, was the great compelling point that kept me reading. There's a real sense of Davie beginning to lose touch with his little Edinburgh world but, equally, the optimism of going somewhere and pulling himself together - there's a hot girl on the scene, and he has the power of being Trackman. There's mention of good days and bad days throughout the book, but Davie's day-to-day proves that more often than not, the day is a conflict of both.

Trackman follows Davie's first person present tense narrative (tick), but also includes a third person narration (tick), and the voice of the MP3 player (tick). Not confusing in the slightest, because each has its own font. It's a consistency that's set up from the start, and it makes the whole flow without too much jarring. As Davie's mind meanders/deteriorates, so does the layout, and it's all very fun. Playing around with these things is always very exciting for me, and Child does it properly because none of it is needless or just for the sake which is quite refreshing when crazy formats seem to be a la mode. That, and every chapter is the name of a song that links somehow with the chapter - that must have been a fun job!

Trackman is fun. It's heavy, and there's a lot going on, but it's balanced with humour, love interests, and banter. It's an interesting take on getting by, having a literal coping mechanism in the form of an MP3 player. Child has handled some tricksy tricks, and she pulls it off with an enjoyable read.

Many thanks to Luath Press for sending a copy for review!