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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Moore, Antony: The Swap

  Amazon  

4.5 stars

Harvey Briscow's life hasn't changed much in the last twenty years. He owns a comic book store in London and has one employee, apart from whom he has no meaningful relationships. He lives in a messy flat that he hasn't bothered to decorate--except for tacking up a few superhero posters--in fifteen years. He falls into bed drunk most nights. He's one of those men who's somehow failed to grow up, who stopped maturing emotionally when he was sixteen or seventeen. And for all of that time he's been nursing one regret, wishing one small moment from his past away: the day in 1982 when--half out of pity--he traded a first edition Superman One comic with the boy everyone picked on at school, Bleeder Odd, in exchange for a lousy piece of plastic. The comic wasn't worth much at the time, but now, as Harvey well knows, it could go for hundreds of thousands of dollars in mint condition. It would be fine if Harvey knew the comic had been destroyed decades before. He could get on with his life. It's the uncertainty that's killing him....

Harvey's 20th high school reunion stirs up his one big regret anew, and he attends with the hope of running into Bleeder and finding out once and for all what happened to the comic. As it turns out, the reunion offers him far more than he could have anticipated--a lifetime's worth of dramatic events in the space of a few days. Among these is a highly unpleasant development that threatens to undermine Harvey's nascent chances for happiness. Unfortunately, Harvey has a peculiar way of making things much worse for himself the more he tries to extricate himself from difficulty.

Antony Moore's The Swap is a very funny book. It's also wonderfully plotted, a sort of Hitchcockian thriller--an average Joe unwittingly getting into very bad straits--with a comic twist. I do have two complaints. First, Harvey has a tendency to walk through events--indeed, through most of his life--in a fog, often alcohol-induced. This works in the novel most of the time, but at certain key dramatic points Harvey's tendency to become distracted by the non-essential becomes hard to believe, which makes it difficult to suspend disbelief. The ending, too, is disappointing: without giving anything away, it seems to me that the author has taken the easy way out by not tying things up more cleverly. But these two concerns aside, I highly recommend this one.

Comments

1.

Sounds excellent. I really like books that tell stories that could happen to everyone - at least the comic incident, anyway.

I've been working through the Sunday Salon Friend Feed for the last couple of weeks and not sure how this is working. I don't think your post (or mine) are there for some reason. Perhaps I'm missing something!

2.

Yes! I liked that aspect of the book too.

Hmmm. Not sure why FriendFeed should be skipping any particular feed. It's just picking up RSS from the Yahoo Pipe. Maybe it's just failed occasionally and by coincidence dropped ours? Certainly yours and mine are coming through by other means, using the same feed.

There was a problem recently with some Blogger blogs having links go to the comments feed rather than the post itself. I don't know why that happened suddenly, but I did apparently fix it yesterday by adjust all the Blogger RSS feeds to an RSS 2.0 rather than Atom version of the feed. Such trials. It would be easier if I knew what I was doing.

3.

A grown man still obsessing over his lost comic book? Who stumbles through life in a drunken fog? Sounds a bit too mundane, but also terribly funny. I might have to look this one up, based on your recommendation.

4.

Hah. Well, it was worth a couple hundred thousand, so I suppose I'd obsess over it too :)

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