Review: Left Unspoken by Brendan Cox

“I just wanted to see what was simply hidden by their shame.  I just wanted to see what they did when the forces of the social world weren’t constraining them.”

Brendan Cox’s Left Unspoken is not your everyday novella.  When Raymond “Ray” Cobley was six years old he learned that his parents agreed to have everything he says recorded.  The transcript won’t be read until after Raymond’s death.   In return, a certain amount of money will be deposited each week into an account for Ray.   Every word he utters over his entire lifetime will be written down.    Can you imagine the invasion of privacy?  What kind of life can you lead if you know every word you said was being recorded?

Ray doesn’t have a lot of ambition.  He takes a job at the airport making announcements over the intercom.  He figures this is the best way to avoid having to think about his every word being recorded.   He moves into a flat with a flatmate.  He starts to notice that his things, such as loose change, DVDs, and various food items are disappearing.  Is his roommate the culprit?   Ray decides to set up cameras around the flat to catch the criminal in the act.  In the end, he not only discovers the guilty party, but a new fascination.  He enjoys recording people unbeknownst to them and having a life that isn’t written down on paper.

After this realization he moves into a new flat.  When he meets his new flatmates, Ray is surprised that one of the couples living there are former schoolmates.  When Ray was a teenager he confided in two of his friends about his transcript.  Oliver “Ollie” Neal is one of the boys he told about his transcript and now the two are flatmates.

After seeing Ray’s video cameras, Ollie convinces Ray to set them up all over the city and catch people doing things that would be highly embarrassing for them.  The plot thickens when Cory Barker, a computer hacker, enters the scene.  He’s hacked into Ray’s computer and has figured out Ollie and Ray’s scheme.  He wants in on the action and has his own agenda.  For Ray this spells trouble.  All he wanted to do was to observe people when they thought they  weren’t being watched.

While the premise of this novel is intriguing, the execution missed what could have made for an extremely fascinating read.   Overall I enjoyed Cox’s novella, but I couldn’t help thinking to myself that if he added a few more twists and turns the story would have been impossible to put down.  There are some surprises in the story, but there is a whole reservoir of thrilling ideas just waiting to be tapped.  Also, I wasn’t entirely clear as to who was recording all of Ray’s life and why.   If he connects a few more dots, this could turn into a stellar thriller and has the makings of an exciting film.

Brendan Cox resides in Wellington, New Zealand.  He is a writer and is interested in film making.  In 2012 he hopes to start making short films.  If you would like to sample his writing please visit his website to read two of his short stories free of charge.  Left Unspoken is his first novella.  He has piqued my curiosity about his storytelling abilities and  I will be keeping an eye on this young author.  I give Left Unspoken 3.5 stars out of 5.