BOOK REVIEW: Untethered by John Bowie


Is there a crime at all or an elaborate plot for John Barrie to fall into?

John Bowie is the founder of Bristol Noir, a popular e-zine specialising in crime-noir, dark fiction and dirty realism. And his crime novel does not disappoint, its 186 pages are packed full of deceit, human depravity and surprisingly dark humour.

John Barrie has been given a new identity under the Witness Protection Programme.  He is a drunk, with a dull job and seemingly an all-round unpleasant guy with a dark past.  John is accosted by his neighbour to find his girlfriend, who has mysteriously disappeared; as a result John feels he can make it as a private investigator and find Cherry.

The protagonist is then drawn into a complex web, his personality and hidden life begin to unravel and the predicaments he gets into are completely believable and at times comedic in the melee of wanting to survive.

The author is obviously very familiar with Bristol and has an affinity to describe the city and surrounding areas with incredible detail. He is able to capture the raw emotion of balancing on the glorious Clifton Suspension Bridge, delving into the murky underworld of Bristol’s clubs, to being sprawled across a Welsh beach.

I really enjoyed this rollercoaster of a read, initially I had no idea where this story was going and it was unpredictable throughout.  I found it very different from the usual detective thriller and I was hooked from the start.  I liked the fact that, initially John was a cynical unlikable loser, alluding to his past life but still leading the reader on without divulging his true identity. We follow his bad decisions and near death experiences to show he has true grit and persistence to find the truth.

If there is any criticism, it would be that the culmination was a little disappointing, not predictable but not explosive either, leaving some loose ends…this might however, be deliberate for another time and place!

I would definitely recommend this crime novel and John Bowie as an author, and look forward to reading his next book.

Untethered is published by Red Dog Press and is available to purchase here.

John Bowie


John Bowie grew up on the coast in rural Northumberland, a region steeped with a history of battles, Vikings, wars and struggles. These tales and myths fascinated him as a child, and then as an adult. In the mid to late nineties he studied in Salford enjoying the bands, music, clubs and general urban industrial-ness of Greater Manchester, including the club scene and the infamous Hacienda. He was also there when the IRA bomb went off in 1996.

John’s writing is semi-autobiographical, a dirty realism and crime-noir. Ghostly references to a heritage that includes the Vikings, Scotland, Ireland and the North, flavour the words throughout, often with a dark but humoured edge.

Although inspired partly by 50s pulp hardboiled detective fiction and the beat generation authors and poets, John aims to celebrate his female characters from his real life through his writing, whilst retaining the hard drinking, cynical honesty and accessible writing style of these genres.

John lives in Bristol with his wife and daughter, where he has been since the late nineties. He is a professional designer, artist and writer as well as a proud husband, father, brother and son.

Reviewed by Amanda Brightman




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