I’m not sure how I managed to miss the release of this book by TV presenter Graham Norton, but when I found it whilst trailing Amazon, I was intrigued. I know Norton has a career in TV presenting, and I also know he writes for newspapers, but writing a novel is something completely different.
It might be easy to think that this is just another celebrity who has put his name to a ghost written book in the hopes of starting a successful career in the publishing industry, when so many other nobodies struggle to get noticed. Thankfully, it seems Norton really did write this of his own accord. Think Dawn French.
Knowing this, I went into it with an open mind. It’s set in Ireland, where Norton originates from, and follows a non-conventional detective called PJ. Immediately, we pity this man. He’s bored, he’s overweight, and he’s awkward. He’s not like the other detectives we read about: strong, smart and a natural investigator. He’s focussed on the wrong things, and he’s more concerned about where his next meal will come from.
We’re soon introduced to a whole host of other characters. Mrs Meany, who has a very interesting past of mystery. Another detective. The Ross Sisters, who have an air of uncertainty around them. Three grown women living together, single and anti-social.
The novel keeps you hooked just enough. Set in a small town, you feel like you’re being let in on gossip. Nothing ever happens here: that is until the body of a man who they think is Tommy Burke appears. Tommy disappeared years ago, and has not been seen since. He breaks the hearts of two women, who even after he has left, have not been able to move on with their lives. The two women are unhappy. A marriage is falling apart, and there are affairs, scandal and lies.
Everyone has a secret in this novel, which keeps you guessing. You’re sure there’s a murder, and you want to find out what happened to the body at the farm. When a second body appears, you’re curious as to the links.
This isn’t your typical murder mystery or thriller. The story seems a little bit flat. It’s unexpected, but realistic, and is such a short read. Whilst the characters are well developed, and whilst they do all have their own problems, there are not enough pages to truly get invested in what their problems are and what they could do to resolve them. It’s easy to think that the ending could be a bit of a let down, but it works. It makes sense.
It’s a great debut from Norton, who clearly has a talent to create realistic settings and characters. It would be interesting to see what he comes up with next, if anything.