I first read Engleby in 2007, its year of publication, and recommended it as an essential Christmas read. Although he is better known for his novels set in France, particularly Birdsong, Faulks writes cracking psychological suspense, too – and has even penned a well-received Bond thriller. While Engleby is a quieter affair, it still packs a punch. The story is narrated by Mike Engleby, a second-year student at an ‘ancient university’. The narrative voice is simple, yet from the start we know that we are dealing with an exceptional mind – uncompromising, fiercely intelligent, wickedly funny – and deeply disturbed.
A fellow student disappears, and Engleby mourns her loss, yet we feel uneasy: despite his eidetic memory for facts, there are gaps in his memory of events. Engleby is reminiscent of the early Barbara Vine novels: although there is relatively little incident, the writer keeps the reader in a state of constant dread. A truly masterful work.