A touching tale of broken dreams and promises. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Holding will be published on October 6th.
The blurb: 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.
I always think you can’t go wrong by starting a book with the discovery of a body in an otherwise quiet, crime-free setting. Holding hits the ground running when a skeleton is unearthed in the small village of Duneen; the mystery is handled well as it unravels and wrapped up satisfactorily as we follow the investigations of the local Guard, PJ, and the Detective Superintendent assigned to the case.
However, the story really isn’t about finding out the identity of the remains and who put them there. More important is how the uncovering of the bones impacts the village and in particular the lives of three characters: Brid, Evelyn and PJ. These three are at the heart of the story and, crucially, are all believable, likeable (to varying extents) and I quickly came to care about all of them.
The setting is evoked brilliantly. The atmosphere of a small village community, where everyone has their nose in everyone else’s business, forcing people to hold their secrets very close, is conveyed extremely well.
As you might expect from Norton, there are some very funny moments and his wit sparkles throughout. However, the stories of several characters are also rather poignant. This tale is one of carefully handled light and shade, and any laughter directed towards the characters is affectionate, rather than mean-spirited.
I had one small stylistic niggle: the story is told in third person, switching between different character POVs. Mostly, each scene is dedicated to one character’s POV and it’s clear when we switch to a different character viewpoint. However, occasionally within a scene and even within a paragraph we slip between characters’ thoughts and feelings. This “head hopping” confused me slightly in a couple of places, but overall it wasn’t a big problem.
Overall: an excellent debut. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!