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Book: Amnesia by Michael Ridpath

Book: Amnesia by Michael Ridpath

categories: Book, Memory Loss, Amnesia, Scottish Crime, Scottish Noir, Loch, Old Man, Highlands, Psychological Thriller


Michael Ridpath

Author Michael Ridpathabout this book: I have always been fascinated to imagine what it would be like to lose your memory. To wake up and not know who you really are. Don't get me wrong, this is not something I would ever want to happen to me. It would be scary. What if you turn out to be a murderer? What if you turned out to have murdered the only woman you ever loved?

There is something else I have always wanted to do: write a fictional memoir covering the whole of a character's life. Get to know a character from the inside, as his life is unfolding around him. The author William Boyd has done this brilliantly a couple of times, notably in his novel "Any Human Heart". But I write crime novels and thrillers. How can I combine a memoir with a thriller?

I mulled over these questions for several months, but eventually came up with an answer. Alastair is a doctor in his eighties, living alone by a loch in Scotland. He falls and hits his head, forgetting everything before the age of 18. He has no relatives left in England, so Clemence, a student from St Andrews University and the niece of a friend, looks after him at his cottage. While there she discovers a hand-written memoir, clearly written by the old doctor, which starts with the words: "It was a warm, still night and the cry of a tawny owl swirled through the birch trees by the loch, when I killed the only woman I have ever loved." Then Clemence realises that woman was her French grandmother, Sophie.

She decides to read the memoir to Alastair from when he visited Paris in 1935 and first met Sophie. As they read, they learn more about Alastair's past, and about each other.

And so I wrote "Amnesia". The idea seems to have worked. Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger winner Peter Lovesey said: "Highly ingenious and engaging: a mystery within a mystery within a mystery, like one of those Russian dolls. I was gripped. The irony in all this is that Amnesia will lodge in my memory for years to come." And Gold Dagger winner Frances Fyfield said: "Scenically breath-taking, ingeniously plotted...The best thriller you'll read all year." Norwegian crime writer Thomas Enger said: "Impossible to put down - a great read. Loved the ending."

The initial response from the press is good too. The Literary Review said "This is a pleasingly convoluted story with numerous twists and turns, and time shifts between the recent past and the frightening present." And the Daily Mail said: "Atmospheric, sinuous and elegant, this demonstrates Ridpath's special talent."

"Amnesia" my fifteenth novel, and my favourite. I hope you will like it too.

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