The Upright Piano Player

David Abbott was a founder of Abbott Mead Vickers, one of the most successful advertising agencies. Abbott served as both copywriter and creative director. No surprise then that The Upright Piano Player, his debut novel from the Maclehose Press (imprint of Quercus) would bear some of the hallmarks of his previous career. The prose is that of a consummate and measured professional, although containing the odd sickly simile. Brands and companies are mentioned throughout - The Body Shop, Conran, and others, but this doesn't jar, although time will tell if they date into confusion. The real world of fact also creeps in through highly publicised news stories, such as the case of farmer Tony Martin, jailed for shooting a burglar, used to highlight the dilemma faced by Henry Cage, the novel's protagonist.
Cage, the back cover synopsis informs us, seemed to have it all, but as he retires his life unravels at the rate of knots. There are as many knots as characters - an estranged bookseller son, a documentary maker ex-wife who lives in Florida, a former ballerina for whom business does not beckon. There are several storylines, yet they receive deft handling into a superbly thought out structure. The promise of redemption is impossible; we learn this right from the beginning in a move similar to that of the master of the well-crafted sentence, Richard Yates. I read it in under a day - staying up late and waking early to finish it. There is no stronger recommendation than that.

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