30 November 2016

BOTM: 'Holding' by Graham Norton

Our November Book of the Month: Holding.

The author: Graham Norton.

The genre: a whodunnit murder mystery.

The time: mainly present day.

The place: the sleepy village of Duneen in West Cork. "Time didn't pass in Duneen; it seeped away."

The main characters: about half a dozen locals, but at the heart of it all is Garda Sergeant Collins, or "PJ", a single, shy, obese fiftysomething who lives alone at the station and is overindulged by his housekeeper, Mrs Meany.

The plot: pacy and twisting. It all kicks off when a body is found on a building site that used to be the Burkes' family farm.

Could the body be Tommy Burke, who went missing some two decades before? Tommy's former fiancée Brid is now unhappily married with two children and a drink problem; she accuses Evelyn Ross up in the big house of the murder. PJ trails after the visiting Detective Superintendent Linus Dunne from Cork as they begin to investigate and dig up further secrets from the past.

Why we liked: though it happens to be written by one of Ireland's most famous celebrities, this is a superb debut novel. Not a comic farce or your typical police procedural, it's an unusual and seriously uncosy mystery that also explores small town sadness, lost love and regret.

Within the mainly middled-age cast of characters who are sympathetically portrayed, the overweight village guard PJ is the very opposite of an action hero. He seems a victim or loser but as the story unfolds he grows on you.

Anything we didn't like? The occasional bad simile and slice of melodrama, though these are more than compensated for by some brilliant touches of dark humour.

The publishers: Hodder & Stoughton.


Check out more of our Books of the Month