Nearly five years after he passed away, Scottish author Jack Gerson is getting the audiobook treatment courtesy of Big Finish. Carolyn Seymour reads the story of a prominent politician being sent to find himself, literally.
Jack Gerson published ‘The Fetch’, his final novel, in 1993. It tells the tale of Alistair Matheson, a high-ranking member of government with even higher ambitions. When a series of chance encounters put him face-to-face with his exact double, he’s beside himself. Is this a bizarre coincidence or a malevolent plot? Will having a doppelganger be a help or a hindrance? Why is MI6 hunting him?
The Omega Factor
You may know Gerson’s work for the short-lived 1979 TV series, ‘The Omega Factor’, starring Doctor Who alum Louise Jameson. Big Finish revived the series back in 2015 with Jameson reprising her role alongside John Dorney. With a second series due in April, ‘The Fetch’ is a great primer for Gerson’s unique take on supernatural storytelling.
The audiobook is read by Carolyn Seymour, who you may know as older Rejoice from ‘The War Doctor’ series. At first, she may seem like an odd choice to read a novel about a young man. However, the versatility of her voice, especially her ability to mimic pompous old toffs, makes her the ideal narrator. Seymour varies her pace as Matheson’s agitation ebbs and flows, which is really well handled. That said, the lack of any sound effects or musical cues to help build atmosphere lets it down somewhat.
As you’d expect for a novel about political intrigue, ‘The Fetch’ is full of backstory that breaks up the narrative. Sometimes this can get wearisome and slow down the pace of the story when reading aloud. This is especially noticeable when some characters get long, detailed introductions but have little impact on the plot. By the end of the first act, however, everything’s set up and the story moves at a brisk, exciting pace.
The plot picks up in the middle with an unfurling mystery and each answer raising even more questions. Every twist and turn are gripping and the entire production becomes un-pausable (or whatever the audio equivalent of ‘unputdownable’ is). Unfortunately, all that build up makes the resolution feel a little underwhelming. It’s quite likely that how you find the ending will vary depending on your tastes in fiction. For me, at least, it does a good job paying off the mystery but fails to reach a satisfying conclusion.
Despite my reservations about the climax, the point of any mystery story is to keep the reader’s attention. In that regard, ‘The Fetch’ a scintillating read. Clocking in at a meaty eight and a half hours, this is one of Big Finish’s lengthier productions. Nevertheless, thanks to the performance and building of the mystery plot, the time slips by unnoticed.
When it comes to Big Finish, we usually give one score that covers both story and sound design. However, it makes more sense to split them up this time, since this is Gerson’s story. So the Blogtor Rating goeth thusly:
Story – 7/10
Narration and Sound – 9/10
This download-only title was released in March 2017. It is currently exclusively available to buy from the BF website.
It’s the 1980s and Alistair Matheson is forging a quietly ambitious path in Government. All is going to plan until a brief encounter with a man who looks exactly like him throws Alistair’s ordered world into chaos.
As this doppelgänger crosses his path time and again a series of events are set in motion with increasingly disturbing consequences. Is this double a spy? A conman? Or could he be something infinitely more sinister?
(Please note this is a significantly sized download-file – be aware of any data charges your network may incur, and that you will need twice the filestore available on your computer or device to unzip the file)
Written By: Jack Gerson
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn
Read by Carolyn Seymour