I rarely watch talk shows. The only one I do watch – depending on its guests – is The Graham Norton Show because I love the host’s wicked and irreverent sense of humour.
I’m aware he’s released a couple of biographical memoirs but regular readers know how I feel about non-fiction (ie. I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a stick. Or eat broccoli.), but I jumped at the chance to read his first foray into fiction, hoping his droll sarcasm found its way into his debut novel. Which it certainly does.
by Graham Norton
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
on October 11th 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 1444792008, 9781444792034
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.
Norton gives us an interesting character in Sergeant PJ Collins. He’s an overweight and fairly average sort of guy – lacking in confidence and contented to spend his days thinking about the next meal his housekeeper is preparing and contemplating what it would be like to earn the respect of Duneen’s residents… but he doesn’t seem too ambitious re the latter.
The discovery of the bones gives PJ a chance to get his teeth into something, but he’s fairly sure the slick big city detective, Detective Superintendent Linus Dunne will sideline him from the investigation.
Dunne initially gives PJ some menial tasks but the local Guard (Garda) soon proves himself enthusiastic and determined, earning the trust of the senior officer.
PJ finds himself attracted to two women who are part of the case. They’re essentially suspects so off limits, but it’s rare that PJ feels that sense of reciprocated attraction so lines blur as he attempts not to let his feelings get in the way.
Norton’s prose is familiar – simple and informal. It’s very chatty and I could almost hear his voice and lilted accent. His wit and his ability to turn a phrase are evident and this is an engaging read. There’s a bit of colloquial language included, which adds to the colour though is occasionally confusing for we non-Irish.
“We’re after finding something up above.” p 9
“I’m after finding a body.” p 20
After? Of course I’m Australian so I’m hardly one to talk colloquialisms or cultural peculiarities. 😉
The ultimate identity of the (first) body – was a little predictable as I think Norton includes some information early on which points readers in the right direction. I suspect the novel would have offered a little more intrigue and suspense had the fairly short (matter of fact) phrase (describing the life of the Burke family) not been included. But the ultimate ‘whodunnit’ remains open until the final reveal.
I appreciated the fact that Norton gave us a very flawed lead, but shied away from poking fun at PJ: both his work and his life. He was sympathetically and sensitively portrayed and felt very very real. I probably would have liked to learn a little more about Detective Dunne, as our glimpse into his life was fairly limited though I did wonder if Norton’s intending to continue the series. I’d certainly be happy to spend more time with both PJ and Linus.
This was an enjoyable and charming outing with the flamboyant Irishman who manages to cast an occasionally sardonic eye over village life and view it with a sense of nostalgia at the same time.
Holding by Graham Norton was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available. (And I think this book, called Loveland will be released in the US in December 2016).
I received a copy of this book for review purposes.
Are you a fan of Graham Norton? Does this one tempt you?