The Long Journey Home (Michael Gilbert)

  • By Michael Gilbert
  • First published: UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1985; US: Harper, 1985

A fun but ultimately disappointing shaggy dog story.  The plot is a combination of The Final Throw (big business organisation employs professional criminals; substantial portion of book set on Continent, including manhunt through Italy) and The Count of Monte Cristo (hero, presumed dead, returns to UK under alias to wreak revenge on wrong-doers).

It begins by being more entertaining and light-hearted than Throw, but Gilbert seems to lose interest once the scene moves to England.  There are irrelevant set-pieces (John’s trap for the Simmons brothers in the morass) and inconsistencies (the corrupt policeman is alternately Thomassen and Ramussen), as well as gratuitous violence.  Worst of all is the anti-climax ending: John’s demands have already been met, so he’s only indirectly responsible and so seems futile, and Chervil doesn’t get his comeuppance.  Because of this, the book feels unstructured—loose and lacking any sense of urgency, even in the last twenty pages.  A lost opportunity.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (T.J. Binyon, 29th November 1985):

Bored with success, John Benedict sells his electronics company and sets out for his native New Zealand.  By chance he stops off at Italy on the way, narrowly escapes death at the hands of the Mafia, and returns to England to seek vengeance on the Society’s paymasters.  Like all Michael Gilbert’s books, The Long Journey Home combines an original plot with memorable characters; the plot is a little slow in getting off the ground, but when a story is told as well as this one is, relevance seems irrelevant.