LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
[Kate is a witness under threat. With the help of Becca, she is trying to change the way she looks]
Kate untied the gown and let it fall from her shoulders. She’d shed a lot of weight recently. The stress had killed her appetite. Her whole life, she’d always been fit and healthy, but now she could glimpse the outline of her ribs through her skin, the jut of her clavicle.
The underwear she had on wasn’t anything like she would have chosen for herself. It was peach and silky, covered in frills. Becca had run out for it while Kate was in the shower. She felt like a stranger wearing it, which she guessed was the point…
Becca [moved] towards a portable clothes rack in the corner of the room. The rail was jammed with garments suspended from plastic hangers. A set of colour photographs had been tacked up on the wall nearby and Kate could see that they were flash shots of the interior of her wardrobe on the Isle of Man.
[Becca said] ‘You’ve spent your whole life with people taking notice of how good you look. Now that’s something we have to change.’
commentary: It was suggested to me that I might enjoy this book because it concerns people changing their appearance, which is indeed a subject always of interest round here. I enjoyed the book very much, but the appearance-changing wasn’t exactly why. By the time Becca has finished with her, Kate is wearing
dark blue jeans with a high waist, a baggy pale blue sweatshirt and white trainers over white sports socks.Later she dresses in
tan chinos, a green fleece and a blue baseball capwhile hero Miller is styling it out in
beat-up jeans over his scuffed desert boots, a flannel shirt and a blue nylon jacket.
The inspiration for Clothes in Books did not come from such ensembles.
But still, no complaints, this book is tremendous fun: non-stop action, a hard-working thriller. I always like stories of hidden witnesses and changed identities – Thomas Perry writes good books on the theme, Harlan Coben has been there, and, most importantly, the blog’s good friend Christine Poulson wrote the excellent Invisible in 2014 – on the blog here.
For me the main point of the book is that it is un-American: the plot and the people are not shiny and polished and hard. The main male character, Miller, ‘leads a highly illegal underground unit that sets people up with new identities.’ But these people are proper Brits: cosy, friendly, nice, and somewhat inept to be perfectly honest. The clothes are all a bit rubbish (as we say here) and sometimes the operatives are too, in a charming way.
There’s a lot of emphasis on their brilliance at their jobs, but the villains and the police are always catching them out and breaking their cover, which does of course make for an exciting adventure. Everyone races round Europe – Prague, the south of France, Switzerland – falling in and out of trouble. The plot revolves round a villainous crime family from the Lake District (of all places – does Martin Edwards know?) and there are definitely questions over the team who are helping Kate – they seem to be on the side of the saints, but there are suspicious circumstances and unanswered questions. Is there more to the story…? Whom should we suspect?
So the ideal book going into the summer – this one was designed for long flights and hours by the pool, and if you are looking for a good, complicated, well-plotted thriller, it will not let you down.