Amnesia is a new standalone thriller by Michael Ridpath whose previous books have been set in the world of high finance as well as the wilds of Iceland. It’s the first book I’ve read by this author and I enjoyed both the complexity of the plot and the intelligent way in which it is written.
Amnesia begins with an interesting premise. A doctor in his eighties living in a remote Scottish cottage wakes up in hospital after a fall with no memory of his past life. Clémence, the great-niece of a French friend of Alistair’s is persuaded to look after him but discovers a manuscript in his cottage suggesting that he killed her grandmother, Sophie. As Alistair gradually recovers his memory while Clemency reads aloud from the book, what is fact and fiction begins to blur.
Despite being set in the wilds of Scotland, Amnesia has an international feel which perfectly suits the thriller style plot. The historical narrative is set in various parts of France and the Bay of Naples and depicts the life of wealth and privilege which goes awry after a devastating act. The Scottish present day setting gives a sense of isolation and disorientation – Clémence is distanced from the past by the amount of time that’s elapsed and Alistair is alienated from the reality of the acts by the retrograde amnesia he is suffering from.
The characters are well drawn, in particular Alistair’s resilience towards his past actions and his current illness. It’s an extremely enjoyable read, made more so by he sense of fun in the final pages.