The Beggar and The Ghost by Vincent Holland-Keen

December 20, 2023

Before this week’s review, I just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone all the best for this forthcoming season. For reasons I shall not bore you with, my output has been somewhat sporadic in 2023. After today’s post, I’m going to have a much-needed break with my lovely family for a couple of weeks and then I promise that The Eloquent Page will return in 2024. Hopefully, I’ll be able to manage my time a bit better and get back to a more regular posting schedule. As ever, my often rambling book-related waffle will remain front and centre 🙂

Apologies for that interruption. Now back to the bookish stuff you came here for in the first place…

At the very moment when Daniel Littlewood decides to end his worthless life, he’s not himself any more.

He’s the suave and deadly hero of a Hollywood dream filled with fast cars, beautiful women and jetsetting intrigue.

As fantasy and reality begin to collide and a global conspiracy threatens the fate of the world, the only question is,

Just how badly Daniel Littlewood screws up this time…

This week I’ve been taking a look at The Beggar and The Ghost by Vincent Holland-Keen.

When Daniel Littlewood wakes after a suicide attempt, he finds himself a world away from his old life. A different man stares back when he looks in the mirror. His downbeat, world-weary exterior is gone, replaced by a dapper man of mystery. Understandably shocked, Daniel’s first thought is he is that he must be dreaming. To have everything he has ever wanted suddenly at his fingertips it can’t possibly be real, can it? Whose life could Daniel leading? Why do specialist skills pop into his head the second he needs them? Multiple languages are a piece of cake, he can read other people in a moment. Offensive and defensive abilities feel like second nature. Has Daniel finally had a full break from reality? Is it all in his head or is there something far more outlandish and conspiratorial going on?

By his own admission, Daniel is a shambolic mess. He has been ground down and broken by modern life. Daniel might now seem to be a debonair superspy but the crippling doubts he has lived with for years still plague him. How could he possibly be worthy enough to deserve this second chance? I’m always a bit fascinated with this sort of introspection in a character. It makes them so much more interesting to follow than your regular by-the-numbers hero. At first glance, this alpha male version of Daniel might appear to be a sauve, sophisticated Bond-esque type but the truth is far from that. Daniel has made terrible mistakes in his past so there is a distinct possibility he could make them again. The only difference is this time the mistakes will be on a much larger scale and have much larger consequences.

I read Vincent Holland-Keen’s novel, the darkly surreal, The Office of Lost and Found what feels like a million years ago (2011 fact fans) and hung on every word*. I’ve had much the same experience with The Beggar and The Ghost. The double life Daniel finds himself leading is fertile ground for the author to create a smart, superior thriller. I’ll warn you now though, this book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger. I know that pushes some readers over the edge but personally, it just leaves me hungry for more. In this first part of Daniel Littlewood’s journey, Holland-Keen offers us some tantalizing glimpses of a larger, more complex picture. We’re left with some big unanswered questions. I need to know what happens next, dammit!

The Beggar and The Ghost is published by Spellbound Books and is available in both paperback and ebook now. Highly recommended. Book two of the Eidolon trilogy is set to follow next summer.

Regular readers know I like to end each post with a little musical recommendation to accompany the book I’ve read and reviewed. In this case, it felt only appropriate that I should make two. For Daniel Littlewood, I chose the delicate, bittersweet soundtrack to That Dragon, Cancer by Jon Hillman. It suits Daniel’s often tragic narrative perfectly. For Daniel’s alter-ego, something more over the top and energetic was required. The soundtrack to There Came An Echo** by Big Giant Circles fits that bill.

*Also well worth checking out if you get the opportunity.

**There is a very specific reason for this choice that will become apparent to anyone who reads the book.

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