Tristan Bancks, The Fall, Random House Australia, 29 May 2017, 288pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780143783053
Sam is awakened in the middle of the night by raised voices in the apartment above. He goes to the window to see what’s happening – only to hear a struggle, and see a body fall from the sixth-floor balcony. Sam goes to wake his father Harry, a crime reporter, but Harry is gone. And when Sam goes downstairs, he finds the body is gone, too. But someone has seen Sam, and knows what he’s witnessed.
The next 24 hours could be his last.
Brooding and atmospheric, Tristan Bancks’s The Fall is a standalone tale of one boy’s search for the truth, as well as his need to determine his own identity and place in the world.
Told in the first person, The Fall is a coming-of-age tale that mixes the best elements of early-teen fiction with classic noir homages, resulting in a sort of 13 year-old “Rear Window” scenario… personally I would have liked to have seen Jimmy Stewart try and manage all the stairs in Sam’s father’s apartment building, but that might purely be a personal thing.
Sam is a worthy protagonist. We warm to him because we understand the struggle that underpins his being – more than a boy but not yet a man, yearning for independence but needing the comfort of home and family. Above all, of course, we understand his need to chart his own course in life, to be the person he wants to be, and for those he cares about to be proud of him. He also has a crush on someone, and he kinda wants to impress them a bit, and I think we’ve all been there as well.
The story takes place in modern-day Sydney, and Bancks sets the scene with masterful strokes, painting a bleak urban landscape that seeps into the reader’s bones, making you feel like you need to reach for a blanket as Sam finds himself falling deeper and deeper into intrigue. As each clue is unveiled, we wonder how this tangled web might ever be successfully unravelled, and how many characters within the story are going to pay the price?
The book will suit those of a similar age with its lead character… the themes are thrilling enough to keep the reader eagerly turning the pages, but not so confronting as to be overly disturbing to those in that age group. A quick read, but a very worthwhile one!
Reviewed by Christian Price