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Exhibit Alexandra is a suspense-mystery. 

Alex Southwood is a junior academic, based in York, happily married to Marc and mother of two children. One day she leaves home but never returns. This is the story she narrates from captivity somewhere, imagining how her family would have dealt with the aftermath of her disappearance. Alex imagines the initial missing person report; the growing replacement of hope with grief; the police suspicions.

Alex imagines Marc finding letters from Amelia Haldt, an American performance artist to whom Alex had been close. These, stored away with Alex’s passport offering the only clue to a life outside the family unit. 

Gradually, with the passage of time, Alex imagines Marc becoming less and less sure that their marriage had been built on strong foundations, but nevertheless determined to discover the truth.

There are signs early on that all might not be quite right. Alex claims to have heard the recordings of the police interviews with Marc. How could that be? How would her captor have obtained those recordings? Why would her captor keep her for so long without any obvious motive?

Slowly – oh so slowly – the story unfolds. As it does, the lines between Alex’s imaginings and Marc’s reality start to blur. Timelines get more jumbled, and actual narrative is replaced by interminable philosophising. This rather lets the tension unwind and ruins the pacing. The tension, after all, in in Marc’s quest for the truth. Amelia and her artistic endeavours are an unwelcome distraction.

The ending is unsatisfactory and probably undermines the internal logic of everything that has come before. And the end of the ending is maddeningly improbable. 

Overall, this felt like a promising premise, some initially interesting characterisation and unfolding of emotion. But by the halfway point it has already begun to drag, and the second half was a bit of a struggle. The characters seemed to lose their third dimension and become just line drawings. Maybe that was the point. It really didn’t work for me, but I guess others will enjoy its quirkiness.

 

***00

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