Simon Lelic burst on the scene in the UK with his debut literary thriller Rupture: a novel with a cover that shouted ‘Sit up and take notice for this is something different.’ Near perfect, the prose and story delivered on that cover’s promise, causing readers some very attentive and appreciative shuffling in their seats. Rupture went on to be a very worthy finalist and shortlisted novel for 2010’s CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award. With Rupture, Lelic took the conventions of the crime genre and threw up something new, vibrant, colourful and grainy. With The Facility, Lelic heads into contemporary Orwell territory examining how society’s structure can be enforced and moulded with a rod of iron for some, while others find what they relied upon turning into a mirage made of gossamer underneath.
Set in the near future, Arthur, a decent man and an ordinary dentist, finds himself arrested under new anti-terrorism laws. His estranged wife Julia Priestley turns to journalist Tom Clarke for help. Arthur is being held at a government facility managed by Henry Graves, hidden deep in the countryside of Cornwall. Graves has dedicated his life to the prison service but his new assignment is a different and secret one presenting many new challenges. The arrival of Dr Silk brings Graves his biggest challenge and he feels his authority threatened. Is the reason for incarceration as honourable as it first appears?
While causing a reader to think and raise many questions within a story of good pace and characterisation, The Facility left the impression of not being complete. I felt it needed more detail in the plotting, more explanation of the hows and whys, particularly the hows. I love a shorter novel, feeling many are over-egged for the erroneous feeling of value for money in the number of pages, but on this occasion I longed for ‘longer’ and with more detail. That said, Lelic still delivers visceral shocks in The Facility, and sometimes the sparse nature of the prose provides the essential DNA of this. Lelic engages emotionally and presents a world we all fear. Who has control and is it just? If you reside in the tunnel of love for crime and thriller, Lelic is the one to take you into uncomfortable new territory.