Read: September 2016
Released: October 6th 2016
Genre: Mystery, Crime.
Synopsis: Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.
The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.
So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret. Goodreads.
I received this book from Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I heard about Graham Norton’s debut novel, I was very intrigued to read it. Not only because Graham Norton is such a popular, well-loved presenter here in the UK, but because I was genuinely interested in the premise. Norton’s novel takes place in the quiet Irish village of Duneen, a village that is shaken by the discovery of human remains on an old farm. The village quickly decides that the remains belong to Tommy Burke, the former love of Brid Riordan and Evelyn Ross, who disappeared years ago after a confrontation between the two women. The novel primarily follows Duneen’s only police officer, Sergeant PJ Collins, as he works to uncover the mystery behind the bones.
Time didn’t pass in Duneen; it seeped away.
The mystery, however, falls secondary to the amazing cast of characters. They’re clearly the focus of the book, and each one of them is incredibly well rendered. The principal focus is on PJ, Brid, and Evelyn, but every character that features in the novel, however minor, feels distinct and believable. Generally speaking, I don’t mind if a character feels “unrealistic”, but I loved that each character in this book felt like someone you could just bump into on the street. Life in a small village is also wonderfully described. Living in a small town myself, I could definitely relate to everyone being involved in everyone else’s business! I loved that everyone in the village was convinced that they had solved the mystery before the police had even arrived, and how bizarrely excited everyone was that a murder had possibly occurred in their village.
As with any crime or mystery novel, it’s easy to succumb to temptation and try to figure out the entire plot before the book guides you there. In this case, however, I let myself be taken along by the mystery, and I’m very glad that I did. While it isn’t difficult to figure out what actually happened as the novel progresses, I was surprised by some of the turns that it took. It would be very easy for a book that is primarily about life in a small village to become very twee, but this book wasn’t afraid to venture into very dark territory.
The people of Duneen felt they had been cheated. The wind had been taken out of their sails, their lives robbed of excitement.
The writing itself is brilliant; Norton’s prose is extremely good. As I’ve already said, the characters are wonderful, but I think my favourite thing about this novel was how well it captures mood. Without spoiling anything, there’s a real excitement in the village when the bones are first discovered, but later on there’s a shift in energy, and the whole book feels different. This, alongside the excellent interactions between the characters were what I liked the most. It was also interesting to see how different characters reacted to or perceived things. For instance, Abigail, Evelyn’s sister, has spent the entire time believing that Evelyn has been better off without Tommy in her life, but it’s clear to the reader, and to PJ, that Evelyn is miserable, and has been for a very long time. Small details like this really helped to bring these characters to life.
Overall, I was incredibly impressed by this book. It’s a very charming, cosy mystery novel, so if you’re looking for an immersive, character-focused read, then this is definitely one for you. It was a genuine pleasure to read, and I really look forward to seeing what Graham Norton writes next!