Book Review: No Good Brother by Tyler Keevil
Tyler Keevil was first published by the Welsh publisher, Parthian, which is how I discovered him. Having enjoyed all his previous books, including The Drive published by Myriad rather than Parthian, I was keen to read his latest novel. No Good Brother is the picaresque tale of two brothers partly set in and around Vancouver, another reason for wanting to read this one.
Tim Harding has spent the fishing season in Canada working as a deckhand, making an honest living. When his hot-headed younger brother tracks him down at the shipyards in Vancouver, Tim senses trouble. Jake is a drifter, a dreamer, an ex-con, and now he needs help in repaying a debt to the notorious Delaney gang.
So begins an epic, unpredictable odyssey across land and sea as the brothers journey down to the Delaney’s ranch in the U.S., chased by customs officials, freak storms and the gnawing feeling that their luck is about to run out. But while they may be able to outrun the law, there’s no escaping the ghosts of their tragic family past and neither is prepared for who and what awaits them at the other end.
No Good Brother gets off to a leisurely start as we see the boat Tim crews on winding down after the herring season. You get a real sense of how important this boat is to the family business which operates it and how the crew works together like a family, whether they’re related by blood or not. Tim’s made himself invaluable as a crew member and is being coaxed into becoming a more permanent part of the actual family at the heart of it.
Which is when his younger brother, Jake, turns up and things take a detour out to sea and across the border… It’s easy to see Jake as the No Good Brother of the title but once Tim has (admittedly reluctantly) agreed to help his brother and they get underway, he often seems the more incorrigible of the two and the one that’s driving the action forward, making it harder to turn back and attempt any form of reparation or escape the almost certain punishment or worse that awaits them. They are despite their differences, both as bad as each other which is perhaps what’s meant by No Good Brother.
Even without knowing about their past shared sorrow, I think I would have championed this pair of scoundrels though. I couldn’t help but warm to them: I laughed at each madcap episode, while also willing them to get away with it. Especially when they come up against more sinister forces in the book. This is no doubt helped by spending time with them as well as what they find once they cross the border, and how they react to it. And a hat tip here to Tyler Keevil’s fresh take on the rescuer on a white horse trope.
If you enjoyed Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, I think you’ll like No Good Brother. It feels like a good buddy road trip movie in book form except they’re brothers, most of the time they’re at sea in a boat and, even when they are on land, their transport is more off-road than on.
No Good Brother is a wonderful, wild ride of a read: packed full of emotion and brotherly love, moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity alongside those of real danger. Loved it.
No Good Brother by Tyler Keevil is published by The Borough Press, a Harper Collins imprint. It is available as an audiobook and an ebook and in hardback. You can find it at Amazon UK, Audible UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop), Waterstones or Wordery.
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy through NetGalley.