An odd, enjoyable thriller without the mystery?
Despite living in the same three-flat house in the suburbs of London, the residents are strangers to one another.
The bottom floor is home to Tam, a recent ex-cop who spends his days drowning his sorrows in whisky. On the middle floor is Nick, a young man with Asperger’s who likes to stick to his schedules and routines. The top floor belongs to Karen, a doctor and researcher who has spent her life trying to understand the rising rates of autism. They have lived their lives separately, until now, when an unsolved murder and the man on the middle floor connect them all together.
I liked this.The book is an easy and sometimes uncomfortable read but in a good way. It’s sad, painful and tragic and rarely uplifting but stops from being depressing.
What makes it compelling and engaging are the characters. The novel is massively character driven, which is essential as the plot is somewhat light and predictable. The story is told from a three character perspective that works really well. This ensures that the pace is kept zipping along and proves to be a real page turner. This is primarily down to the three perfectly imagined (but stereotyped) characters.
All the characters are extremely well written, they are all massively flawed which keeps you engaged. Although Tam is the cliched cop he’s likeable and a crucial bridge between the two other main characters. Nick is written in the first person and this really helps to get in his head as we learn about the issues associated with his condition and his struggle to fit into society. Karen is particularly loathsome, absolutely zero redeeming characteristics but utterly compelling at the same time. One of the least likeable characters I’ve come across. This does not harm the book though, it enhances it.
The Man on the Middle Floor does have a major theme and does a good job in highlighting disconnection in all its forms; sexual, physical, parental and emotional. It attempts to show how isolating society can be but also how unprepared it is to offer support to those who are mentally and emotionally vulnerable. Despite this, it is not a lecture on mental health.
I really enjoyed this book. It is odd, i think that’s what swung it for me, it doesn’t really fit into a genre and I like that. If it is a crime thriller then it It does suffer from a lack of mystery that you would normally associate with that genre. The suspense vanishes after the first quarter of the book and there is no true villain unless you count Karen. Despite this the novel works for me and is a throughly good read.