What He Never Said, by Mark Findlay Smith

Hannah Ross

The first novel in a series set just after World War One.
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Harry Baker lives in constant fear that the secret life he harbours will be discovered by his classmates. He is one of many university students who have been scarred by the Great War, and is trying to return to some semblance of normality. That is, until he meets JP, a man who has remained voiceless since witnessing a tragic, deadly event. Mark Findlay Smith’s new novel What He Never Said follows their journey as they try to piece together the dark truth that lies behind the murder of a girl, someone that JP once knew as a close friend.

Smith places the reader right at the centre of Harry Baker’s complicated life, which fast becomes more and more dangerous as time passes. Though initially it seems to Baker that he is simply helping a friend who is stuck in a grim situation, it becomes increasingly clear that his personal involvement is causing him to become directly entangled in JP’s story. Baker becomes undeniably attached to important individuals from JP’s past, and becomes strangely wrapped up in their lives as well. When new threats begin to appear, Smith captures Baker’s pain and frustration within a desperate first-person narrative. All of this leads itself to a succession of quietly shocking revelations that are as surprising for the protagonists as they are for the reader.

What He Never Said is a fast-paced thriller for those looking for a window into Britain’s post WW1 past. Smith paints a portrait of personal mystery against a background of early 20th century societal pressure and change. The world that Smith has crafted marries itself perfectly with the characters’ struggle for clarity in a predicament where no such thing can be easily found. As more clues emerge, Smith makes it all too clear that Baker and JP are at great risk, both of physical and mental harm. What He Never Said is indeed a success when it comes to delicately adding new details to make the plot all the more unsettling. Because of this, it is safe to say that Smith has created both a tense thriller, and an intriguing mystery novel.

Despite the dire circumstances of the leading characters, it is hard not to feel compelled to see What He Never Said through to the end. Smith truly doubles down on suspense as he crafts a mystery thriller to keep the reader on their toes throughout.

What He Never Said is the debut novel from Mark Findlay Smith, and is published by Sharpe Books.