Nobody True (2003) James Herbert, Macmillan, £17.99, hrdbk, 394pp, ISBN 1-405-00519-X
James True is having an out of body experience, a talent he has developed over time, following a business argument with his friend and partner when, on returning, he finds that he has been brutally murdered while his spirit was elsewhere. Perhaps it is the work of the serial killer that has been in the news recently. But as James struggles to come to terms with his own death, he starts to discover secrets about which he has never known - his mother's real feelings and possible madness, and his wife's infidelity to name but two. Has nobody been true to him in his life? And, when he is set the task of stopping the serial killer's murders, how will he accomplish it as a disembodied ghost? Being able to pass through solid objects and (sort of) fly are certainly advantages, but not actually being able to come to grips (literally) with anything is a serious drawback. And what happens when True discovers that the serial killer also has the ability to have out of body experiences?
First person narratives have many advantages and disadvantages, and I'm not completely sure that Herbert has successfully resolved the differences here. In giving James True a voice, he has filled the novel with many repetitions and digressions which, while understandable, quickly become irritating, not least the footnoted remarks which make a mockery of the conceit that the character is actually telling his story to someone. However, that aside, this is a tightly plotted, though sometimes predictable, tale which comes alive in the last third of the book. Here matters become almost EC Comics-like in their imagery and intensity ('wronged and murdered lover returns from grave to exact terrible vengeance'), and all the plot points are resolved with aplomb. The book stumbles a bit at the end as Herbert hammers home his message of acceptance and forgiveness, but it's quite forgivable in its own right, given what has gone before and the thrust of the human, mortal story of James True. This is probably not Herbert's best work, but is far from being his worst. Recommended for fans - of which there are many!
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