Jigsaw by Garry Kilworth

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Jigsaw by Garry Kilworth
Buy Jigsaw from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Jigsaw from Amazon.com

Genre: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Beautifully written and cleverly paced, Jigsaw brings the Lost mix of desert islands and peculiar goings-on to a younger audience. Character interaction gives vital depth to a very satisfying thriller. Ideal for the thinking thrill-seeker aged 11 and up.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: February 2008
Publisher: ATOM
ISBN: 978-1904233770

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At first sight, you'd think Max's was the usual teenager's blog. But once you start reading, you realise that this teenager has a very unusual story to tell. Max and his adopted brother Hass have come to the island of Krantu off the Malaysian coast. Their father is an archaeologist and he wants to spend the summer on Krantu working, before rising sea levels engulf the island forever. With them is Rambutu, a Malaysian zoologist. It seems a little odd that an archaeologist would need a zoologist - or to be on a disappearing coral island at all - but Rambutu is a great guy and Max and Hass think little of it.

Instead, they enjoy themselves while Max's father throws himself into his secret work - provided the boys don't venture near the locked shed which contains everything to do with it, they are pretty much left to their own devices. When the Porters arrive, Max and Hass both fall in love with their beautiful daughter Georgia. This is a second rivalry with Hass for Max - he already needs to compete with him for his father's attention. And then strange things begin to happen. Curious creatures begin to appear in the rainforest. Pirate junks are seen on the horizon. A terrifying howling keeps them awake at night. And Max is afraid that it's all his father's fault.

Jigsaw is a thriller with elements of sci-fi, fantasy and the supernatural. It works well. I'm not completely sure that I was convinced by the diary-come-blog device it uses though. Some of the entries are terribly long and most of the time I'd forgotten it was even there. It doesn't spoil anything, but I don't really think it added a great deal either - it simply felt as though I were reading a standard first person narrative. As a first person story though, Jigsaw works splendidly. We really did need to hear Max's tale in his own words. Shut out from his father's secrets and struggling with jealousy of Hass, Max unsurprisingly adds two and two and makes five on a regular basis. Increasingly though, he makes four. Much of the tension in the plotting is built upon Max edging around the truth in this way, gradually getting closer and closer and to it.

What I really liked about Jigsaw was the pacing. Kilworth gives plenty of time to character interaction and scene-setting, but never allows it to become laboured or dilatory. Instead, quietly and cleverly, he gradually accelerates tension almost in the background until about halfway through the book, when you realise you're completely hooked. It's beautifully written too, in sparse and elegant prose much more reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle than the more readily-recognisable comparison, Michael Crichton.

The characters are well-rounded and believable and the family relationships are in the kind of emotional landscape we all recognise. There's also a kind of old-fashioned heroism about Jigsaw that's both timeless and tremendously appealing. People might well make mistakes, but most of them try to come good in the end. Max does a lot of growing up over the course of the book, but - interestingly - so does his father. The competing elements - the character relationships, the supernatural-mythological, the tension of the thriller - mesh exceedingly well and all play a part in making this a very satisfying read.

Jigsaw is a successful mix of techno-thriller, sci-fi and magic and definitely recommended.

My thanks to the nice people at Atom for sending the book.

Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time and Steve Voake's The Starlight Conspiracy also blend science fiction, fantasy and magic to marvellous effect.

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