Simon Lelic (www.simonlelic.com)
Simon Lelic’s first novel, the quietly horrific RUPTURE, made him an instant “must-read”. THE FACILITY, his second novel, bleaker and tougher than the first, but no less enjoyable, has cemented that impression, leaving this reader pining, already, for whatever comes next.
THE FACILITY is the story of three very different men, connected by the mysterious prison facility of the title, set in an all-too-real modern-day Britain where civil liberties have been eroded almost to the point of non-existence. Henry Graves is the prison warden tasked with building and running the facility that strikes the reader almost immediately – and is confirmed by the fictional News of the World headline – as a sort of Guatanamo UK. Graves is a troubled man, cut off from his family, bound to a secret job that does not quite gel with his moral sensibilities.
Arthur Priestly, a dentist, is one of the facility’s inmates, falsely imprisoned on the word of a man he has never met. Tom Clarke, a journalist with strong views in opposition to the laws that allow the government to arrest people at the vaguest suspicion of terrorist activity, is hired by Arthur’s wife to help find where her husband has gone, and why he has been arrested.
The story is told alternately from the point of view of each of the three main characters, each with his own perspective and tone: Graves is sedate and troubled, a man losing his sense of self and his sense of self-respect; Arthur is confused, frightened and ultimately defiant; Tom at first seems like comic relief, the tone of his chapters light and airy, but it is Tom who, perhaps, provides the most drama as the climax approaches.
THE FACILITY grabs from the first page, where two unnamed men interview Arthur in an encounter that grows more violent with each paragraph – leaving the reader in no doubt that there is something slightly off about the version of reality in which this novel is based – and holds the attention throughout. It’s a tough read, like all good noir fiction, and like all fiction in that genre, there is no happily-ever-after, no – if you’ll pardon the pun – get-out-of-jail-free card.
This is modern noir at its absolute peak, and Lelic seems set for superstardom, assuming he can continue to meet the expectations he has set with his first two novels. He remains, for this reader at least, an absolute must-read.