Book Review: Whiteout (2004)

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Whiteout by Ken Follett


Another read from one of my favs! I truly adore Follett’s writing, whether it’s historical fiction or thrillers, and I’ve had this one for years now and just haven’t had the time to pick it up. But, at last, I’ve dived in! It’s a fast-paced thriller set over the Christmas holidays as a securities officer and her boss contend with two robberies at the lab one night after the other. Overall I think this book is a very well written thriller and anyone who’s looking for a Christmas-themed book with action and dramatics should definitely check this out! But whilst I enjoyed it and found it a gripping tale of crime and family dynamics, I didn’t love it as much as some of Follett’s others. I wasn’t sold on some of the dialogue or characterisations at times and struggled with a few of plotlines, but that said, I thought the mystery and overarching plot were rather brilliantly done.

This book really reminded me of a Christmas action/thriller film (rather like Die Hard meets Home Alone, actually) and I do think it would make a good one! I actually think it could be a great film! It’s fast and tense, but has a happy/Christmas-themed ending (twice, because you get a time jump). It’s set in the evenings and early mornings, everything’s snowy and cold and you get descriptions of the decorations and such, and the main characters are all centred around one family.

The story follows Toni, who works as the head of securities at the research centre (based in Scotland) and is the main lead; Stanley, the owner of the laboratory and a millionaire; Kit, his disgraced son who stole from the company; Olga, Hugo and Craig, Stanley’s daughter, her unfaithful husband and their children; Miranda, her fiancé Ned, Tom, her son, and Sophie, his estranged daughter who finds nothing cool and everything worthy of disdain except Craig, who’s delighted to have won her attention and is determined to prove himself to her. The family reunion over Christmas is set to see Kit’s return to the family after having a falling out with their father over previous thievery from the laboratory (so, if you have been keeping count, this poor building is robbed three times in this book). The reunion is also intended by Miranda to be Ned and Sophie’s proper introductions to the entire family, which Miranda hopes will persuade him to finally marry her, a step he seems reticent to do, much to her mounting frustration. So, like, everyone’s connected to everyone and everyone’s got side problems even before the robberies occur. Unfortunately for Toni and the family she works for, the lab had a break-in the night before Christmas (this is the opening scene, so it’s not a spoiler), one man and a rabbit die, and everyone’s on high alert and upping security at the laboratory as Christmas eve sets in. It’s also the eve of Kit’s attempts to rob his father (again; so, yeah, he does two of the books three robberies [this isn’t really a spoiler either, you know he was disowned for stealing and you know he’s planning to rob the lab again by his first POV chapter]), all so he can pay off his debts to a vicious gangster and his violent daughter. And then everything just spirals from there and leads to Kit and his gang of fellow thieves (all of whom are incredibly violent) crossing paths with the main characters (Toni and the family) who are just trying to a) protect the lab and deal with the fallout of the first robbery (the one not committed by Kit, so technically the second, but it’s the book’s first on-page one), or b) try and enjoy Christmas. (I’m telling you, it’d make a great action film for Christmas!)

I thought the heist and the action were very well done. Follett really knows how to keep you turning the page! That said, while I generally adore the way he writes romance (Aliena/Jack, Tom/Ellen, Caris/Merthin, Ned/Margery, etc, from his previous books), I didn’t love Stanley/Toni, one of the main romances in this. Like, on the one hand, they had some cute scenes, but on the other hand, the writing of them thinking about each other just didn’t really work for me. I did find Craig and Sophie rather adorable, though. And I liked the growth that happened in Ned and Miranda’s relationship. I felt really, really bad for Hugo at the end, Olga’s husband. And I don’t feel like we got enough closure regarding Miranda and Olga’s relationship. The ending just felt a bit rushed into a tiny epilogue which, given that the entire book took place over three days and went into incredible detail, just didn’t feel like enough, personally.

Still, glad to have read it and definitely recommend it! I still have many more of Follett’s books on my reading list to get to, so I’m glad I’ve finally managed to read this one!

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