"For Your Own Protection" by Paul Pilkington
Who would have expected that a banker-turned-teacher could be such a badass?
Matt Roberts, the protagonist in Paul Pilkington’s For Your Own Protection, demonstrates just has much badassery you can expect from a man when what he cares about most in the world – his family – is threatened.
At the start of this contemporary thriller, we are introduced to Matt, who is working as a teacher in an adult education program for ex-cons at the behest of his sister. This position, which he enjoys, is only temporary, however. He previously worked at a high-profile bank – and will work there again as soon as he sorts some personal issues (or at least this is the plan).
Like many unlikely heroes, Matt’s life is a bit in shambles. His long-term relationship with Beth, a woman with whom he shares a young son, has ended and Beth has taken up with a former co-worker of Matt’s – someone who we can pretty much see right away will end up being an asshole.
Meanwhile, Matt’s planning to dump his current girlfriend because he’s pretty sure she’s stalking him – which is, you know, creepy.
Unfortunately for Matt, he is (at least initially) unsuccessful in sorting out his life. In fact, things get worse, spiraling even further out of control as he realizes that he’s somehow gotten himself caught up in something big and dangerous.
In typical thriller fashion, Pilkington starts this novel with an action-rich scene – that initially appears to have nothing to do with the central plot.
Unlike many other thrillers, however, the author doesn’t let the tension drop after this first smack-you-in-the-face chapter. Instead, he keeps you engaged from start to finish, creating a cohesive and complex – yet believable – mystery that you desperately want to see solved.
Trust me, I was up until 3am reading.
Dialogue is a definite strength of Pilkington’s. He regularly uses conversation to advance the plot, engaging his characters in realistic and engrossing verbal exchanges.
Even more impressively, in these conversations, we see characters take on their own distinctive voices. With great care, he manages to channel these different characters – be it the former convict-turned-student, the smarmy banker or even the protagonist’s young son – creating clear linguistic patterns and realistic verbal tics that add authenticity to the characters and – by connection – the novel as a whole.
Despite my overall enjoyment of the book, as it drew to a close I was left feeling like it was missing… something. Something small… but still… something.
Upon reflection, I decided that what I was missing was closure.
There were a few particularly rich secondary characters in the book who I didn’t feel were explored quite as deeply as I would have liked.
Specifically, the character of Harvey, the ex-con student who inspires the protagonist to give up his lucrative life of banking and move instead into teaching.
Hope you have some money saved it, buddy… ‘cause not only are you not gonna get paid much, you’re also going to have to buy your own pencils.
Pilkington did dedicate some attention to this character, giving him a scene on his home turf and, ultimately, allowing him to play a rather important part in righting some wrongs. But I still felt that there was unexplored content that, if unpacked, would have rounded this character out nicely.
The other character I wanted to see more of was Catherine… er, Natalie… the um-she-might-be-stalking-me girlfriend who ended up providing integral assistance to Matt as he worked to piece together the puzzle that was his life.
This character didn’t receive the same amount of attention as Harvey. There is so much unchartered territory with her that Pilkington could honestly write a spin-off featuring her in the lead role – which I would gladly read, Mr. Pilkington.
Ultimately, For Your Own Protection was a tightly written and original thriller.
I would recommend it to any fan of the genre, specifically those with an affinity for James Patterson and Harlan Coben, as Pilkington’s clean and economic style reminded me of these masters of suspense.
I give it 4 out of 5 cocktails.
Sometimes, a secondary character can capture your heart. Tell me about a secondary character you fell in love with in the comments, below.
And on to the next book (after a nap, maybe).
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