REVIEW: Mainlander by Will Smith

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Read this book for: realistic characters, slice-of-life, lifelike drama, multiple character viewpoints, multiple plotlines

Quick Review: This thriller is very different from the rest of the genre, but it will still grab you and not let you go until you’ve finished it! Highly recommend adding this one to your reading list.


It’s 1987 in Jersey, and the outwardly mundane lives of many of the island’s inhabitants are filled with secrets. Relationships are strained, a potentially suicidal boy has gone missing but no one seems to want to do anything about it, and a blackmail plot has the potential to go very wrong. A massive storm is coming; who will survive?

MAINLANDER is Will Smith’s first novel – and it’s absolutely a fantastic one. I have to admit I was very excited when I found out that this one was coming out; Will Smith was one of the writers for (and in fact, appeared in) the BBC’s The Thick of It, which is an utterly brilliant, ridiculous and irreverent comedy. I don’t watch a lot of comedy, but I adored that show, which I think says a lot for it! Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to see what Will Smith brought to the thriller genre.

Perhaps characteristically, the answer was a deep understanding of character, and a lot of humour. This is not your typical thriller, with gory killings and detectives and frantic chase scenes. There is some element of that excitement and danger, but the actual focus of the suspenseful narrative is the intense personal dramas of the characters: affairs, marriage breakdowns, a sense of duty to a student – these are what drive the thrilling aspect of the novel. While there isn’t a single explosion or gunfight in this novel, MAINLANDER absolutely grabbed me and kept me turning pages until I reached the end.

A lot of that success has to do with the very real characters. They are incredibly human, with real flaws, and the reader gets to see (and relate to) the train of thought of even the some of the most loathsome characters – for example, preening Rob de la Haye is hard to like, but his vanity is easy to understand. The characters have relatable motives and their actions seem believable. It’s the reader’s need to see what happens to those characters as a result of those actions that really pulls you through the story.

The plot itself is not overly grand or complex. As previously mentioned, the story really centres around intimate and intense personal dramas: blackmail to prevent the exposure of an affair, and a missing, potentially suicidal student. While none of the various plotlines are enough to carry the story on their own, they are skillfully intertwined in order to drive a highly enjoyable read.

Definitely pick up a copy of MAINLANDER. It’s a different, but quite well-executed thriller that is truly entertaining.

One thought on “REVIEW: Mainlander by Will Smith

  1. This sounds like a very exciting read. Great review! I always find thrillers to be so hard to talk about as I don’t want to spoil anything or stick to the “read it, it’s very good!”. Really enjoyed your review!

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