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Thursday 20 June 2024

NOBODY TRUE - Book review

James Herbert’s 2003 novel Nobody True is another excursion into ‘life after death’ with a similar dark tone to his earlier book, Others (1999).

It begins intriguingly with the sentence ‘I wasn’t there when I died’ – which echoes his epigraph at the front of the book: ‘It’s not that I’m afraid to die. It’s just that I don’t want to be there when it happens – Woody Allen’.

As he grows up the narrator, James True, realises that he can induce an ‘out-of-body experience’. This is akin to remote viewing. Apparently, he was absent from his body when he was murdered in a hotel. He now finds himself a floating soul, able to fly and view but not able to touch or feel anything in a physical sense.

His back-story is interesting. He studied graphic art and went into advertising. In one of several footnotes he mentions those adverts which are so clever yet the brand name goes unnoticed. Herbert was writing from experience as he studied at Hornsey College of Art and went into advertising.  Eventually, True starts his own agency with his friend Oliver and marries Oliver’s ex-girlfriend Andrea, and they have a daughter Primrose. The firm and their marriage seem successful.

After about seven years of marriage, the city is alarmed by a vicious serial killer who, when we encounter him, proves quite terrifying. The killer is blamed for James True’s murder, apparently.

True has to take time to adjust to his new life as an invisible non-physical entity. Gradually, he gets on the trail of the killer. Along the way in this page-turning book there are many twists and turns, littered with broken trust, guilt and greed.

Herbert brings to the fore much of his esoteric knowledge about the supernatural, including Kirlian auras. Long before the end, James True is belaboured with dreadful and hurtful revelations, to the point where he asks, ‘Was nobody true to me?’ (p482).

Classic Herbert and with an ending as poignant yet strangely as uplifting as that of Others.

Editorial comment:

‘Andrea kept her voice low, only the gravity of its tone reaching Prim and I on the sofa’ (p158). Of course that should read ‘Prim and me’.

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