Review – The Baltimore Boys by Joel Dicker

My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

ABOUT THE BOOK

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November 24, 2004.  The day of the tragedy.  The end of the brotherhood.  Fresh from the staggering success of The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, Marcus Goldman is struggling to write his third novel.  A chance encounter in Florida throws him some inspiration from a surprising source: Alexandra Neville, the beautiful, phenomenally successful singer and Marcus’ first love.  All at once, memories of his childhood come flooding back.  Memories of a family torn apart by tragedy, and a once glorious legacy reduced to shame and ruin.  The Baltimore Boys.  The Goldman Gang.  That was what they called Marcus and his cousins Hillel and Woody.  Three brilliant young men with their dazzling futures ahead of them before their kingdom crumbled beneath the weight of lies, jealousy and betrayal.  For years, Marcus has struggled with the burdens of his past, but now he must attempt to banish his demons and tell the true and astonishing story of the Baltimore Boys.

WHAT I THOUGHT

This is a story of love, loss, family & friendships, loyalty, secrets, jealousy and a dash of rivalry.  It is a moving tale, beautifully written with wonderful descriptions, and Joel Dicker writes in such a way that makes you feel like you know this family already.

For those that know The Harry Quebert Affair, Marcus Goldman is back! And for those that don’t, don’t worry, this novel can be read as a standalone also.

The Baltimore Boys are a set of cousins from very different backgrounds, one wealthy and the other not so, but these three boys are the best of pals.  The book starts off with a memory; an abrupt phone call, Marcus is being summoned back to Baltimore by his Uncle Saul… but why?  It certainly got my attention… and it also got a future Marcus Goldman recalling the past and thinking about what to write for his next novel.  Even more so when he bumps into an old love in Florida.

The book goes back and forth in time revealing memories of Marcus’ family and close friends, and the good times he had with them.  Although it does run as present day as Marcus has relocated to Boca Raton in Florida to help him concentrate on writing his next novel.  Joel Dicker is talented at revealing things gradually, lifting the story layer by layer, from complicated relationships Marcus had with people to the tragedy that we learn of… it is superb storytelling!

Joel Dicker builds on his characters well.  We learn a lot about them.  You have Hillel who is from a wealthy background and is the subject of the school bully at private school.  He is physically petite, extremely intelligent and has an interest in subjects such as fascism and ancient history.  He is also one that gives up a bit too easily.  Then there is Woody who is “handsome, muscular, brooding and mysterious” but is unfortunately from a broken home.  Hillel’s parents take him in as one of their own.  He is a sensitive soul although very much a mischief-maker.  Then you have Marcus who would have given anything to live with Hillel and Woody in Baltimore.  He defined them as success and happiness and is embarrassed by his own upbringing; his father an engineer and his mother a clothes store sales rep.  He craved the lifestyle of the rich and was always deeply ashamed to go back home after experiencing life that way for a weekend.

The book is a bit of a slow-burner and some readers may not have the patience to stick it out, but it is worth it, and if you are a sucker for detail like me, then you will love this.  I personally enjoyed finding out all about such a predominant family – it has a very good backstory.  A little bugbear of mine though was that whenever a current day Marcus and his old flame, Alex, had heart-to-hearts, I was not convinced by the dialogue.  It was far too official sounding and not enough passion, warmth and anger – there was no fire between them considering they were old lovers and things didn’t end too well with them!

It is a fun read and very easy to follow. You can feel the attention Joel Dicker has given this book – he has nurtured it into to the slow, detailed, suspense novel that it is today.  The only thing lacking is a little bit of action, although I don’t feel it would have worked well with Joel’s style of writing anyway.  He is definitely a charmer and not one for fast pace.

Joel spends most of the novel skirting around what actually became of The Baltimore Boys until the last few pages, and you will not want to miss it.  We meet so many different characters throughout and Joel has a really good imagination.  He spins a good tale.  The big question though is whether The Baltimore Boys is a worthy successor of The Harry Quebert Affair?  And my cards say yes it is!

This tremendous book is out to buy on Thursday 18 May, and a big thank you to Alainna at Quercus Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book in return for an honest opinion – I really appreciate it!

My final word: Detailed.

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