Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Thirteen: Sebastian Beaumont, July 25—31 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Stephen Bardot is a taxi driver who works nights. He regularly picks up a woman he dubs “Valerie” from her address at 13 Wish Road in Brighton and observes her dying of cancer. When she stops calling, he fears the worst and asks the switch if she’s called recently. He is told that there is no 13 Wish Road.
Thirteen is not a number. It is a state of mind.
From here, we join Stephen on the most remarkable journey as he sees to discover the truth behind “Valerie” and the disappearing address. What unfolds is a foray into an extra dimension of existence, or madness.
The intense atmosphere never lets up. Beaumont sucks you in. He slowly unravels the mystery a layer at a time, building steadily from Stephen’s piqued interest to the point of utter obsession. Each reveal, each deeper delve into this world, is incremental and wonderfully paced.
We meet four main characters from Thirteen: Valerie; The Nurse/Helena who attends her; Seymour, Helena’s brother; and Phoenix, the devastatingly beautiful girl that crosses his path. Each have a real gravitas so that whenever they are around, each line seems crucial and every scene is important.
Alongside the main story, Stephen shares some antidotes of his taxiing career which the introduction tells us are Beaumont’s true experiences. Occasionally they pop up at annoying times, but they are often poignant and interesting. Before each chapter is a brief snippet of what SB (both Bardot and Beaumont it seems) heard in the back of his cab. These throwaway gems from the commuting public provide some great comic relief.
As the plot progresses towards its climax, there are some genuine shocks that take you by complete surprise. The conclusion is mostly satisfying, answering many of the big questions at least partially but still maintaining an air of enigma. There are some things I would have liked more concrete answers to, but the spirit rather than the detail of Thirteen is more or less explained.
A fascinating journey into one man’s mind or madness, or neither or both, that never drops the ball for a second.