Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The Ruins by Mat Osman @matosman @RepeaterBooks #TheRuins #BookReview

When Adam Kussgarten's twin brother is found gunned down just yards from his flat, Adam is drawn out of his solitary, dream-like life into a neon-lit world of forgery, deceit and violence. The Ruins is the story of twin brothers - Adam and Brandon - who haven't spoken for decades, When Brandon is found gunned down just streets from Adam's flat, Brandon's girlfriend enlists Adam to find out what he was doing there and who killed him. Shy, stuttering Adam finds himself caught up in his brother's world of deception, violence and forgery. As things turn increasingly dark and his entanglements with his brother's family grow, he's faced with a choice of whether to dive deeper into Brandon's world and risk losing himself, or turning his back on his future.

The Ruins by Mat Osman is published today (11 February 2020) by Repeater Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Ruins is one of those books that left me scratching my head at times. The writing is excellent, the premise is ingenious and the characters are perfectly crafted. It is a unique and incredibly imaginative story; at times I was a little lost, but for most of the time I was totally immersed.

There's one theme that runs throughout the story, and that is of identity. The author makes us question lots of issues around how we present ourselves; how we hide our inner self and how we can persuade others to accept what we want to be, instead of who we really are.

Adam Kussgarten is something of a recluse. He lives, alone in a flat, surrounded by his model of Umbrage. Umbrage is his life work, he's been working on it for over thirty years. It has taken over his flat and is precision built; it may not be a real world, but it's Adam's world.
Adam is an identical twin. He hasn't had contact with his brother Brandon for years. When his phone rings, and he finally answers it, he finds he's talking to Brandon's long-term girlfriend Rae, also the mother of Brandon's ten-year-old son Robin.
Brandon is dead. He was assassinated, in cold blood on a street not far away from Adam's flat.

Rae has no idea why Brandon was even in London; they live in the US, although from what she says, Brandon often disappeared for days on end. It's clear that Brandon wasn't the best of partners, or fathers. Adam and Rae hit it off; exchanging stories about Brandon. It's clear that he hasn't really changed from the boy that Adam knew; always reinventing himself, always wanting to be known. Always presenting an identity in public that didn't mirror his real self.

Adam goes to identify Brandon's body and collect his belongings, which includes his journal. He and Rae read through it, via Skype.

The author includes those parts of the journal as part of the narrative, and the reader becomes more aware of Brandon's life. It's a complex, and multi layered existence and there's deception at the root of it. Unlikely hero Adam becomes entrenched in Brandon's world, posing as him and getting involved in some schemes that are quite hair-raising.  Umbrage is not forgotten though, and there are readings from Adam's Book of Umbrage interwoven throughout the story.

The author makes good use of the latest ways of communicating via the Internet, with episodes of trolling from Brandon along with SoundCloud and texts. I have to admit that a lot of this was quite alien to me and at times I felt that the story became a little too heavy.

There is no doubt that Mat Osman has a incredibly creative imagination, and his writing is so well crafted. I'd probably have liked the story to be shorter, as I became easily distracted in places.
However, it's extremely cleverly done and his use of description is vivid.
An unusual story, unlike any that I've read before from an author with talent.

Mat Osman is a founding member of the iconic British rock band Suede.
The Ruins is his first novel

Twitter @matosman 

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