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Coming from 'up north', I was eager to read the 1974 book from the Red Riding trilogy by David Peace. I live on the outskirts of Leeds, and as the majority is set within Leeds, I find it easier to picture settings, etc. I wasn't disappointed. This dark book with a tough story leaves you gripped till the end. It has more recently been made into a TV series which was aired on channel 4 about 6 months ago, and has since been released on DVD.
The book sets the scene with the West Yorkshire Police Force, and you soon realise that a large proportion of the forces Officers are in fact corrupt. This story shows how far the bent coppers are willing to go to hide their dirty secrets - and its a lot further than you would think, although this is only fiction (I hope!).
David Peace has a style of writing that keeps you gripped all the way through. I have also watched the TV series but that didn't have the same effect on me, so it was definitely his writing and not the plot (although the plot is very good, if not a little dark). The general plot of the book covers child murders (several), and so is not a lighthearted story, and is actually quite difficult to read in places
Eddie Dunford works for The Yorkshire Post's as a Crime reporter and soon delves deeper into a story than anyone else has. He realises that a young schoolgirl who has gone missing, may be linked to 2 others a few years previous. He takes what he considers to be strong links to the West Yorkshire Police, but they dismiss him immediately telling him in no uncertain terms that they are not linked and he should consider taking his efforts elsewhere. Eddie tells his theories to a colleague, who is a keen conspiracy theorist. He gives Eddie a lead, and tells him to look into a local wealthy businessman. The colleague is soon found dead in what seems to be a unfortunate car accident, but Eddie is not so sure after he is beaten up by local police officers and told to back off. When the missing girl is found dead with swans wings sewn into her back, Eddie decides he cannot back down and continues with his investigations anyway. But at what price?
The book seemed to reflect real cases in parts, as did the series, but in this book it reflected the case of Stefan Kiszko , a man with learning difficulties who is charged with the rape and murder of young girls - but is this just the corrupt police force trying to use a scape goat? You won't forget the tagline 'Put your hands flat on the table' in a hurry, after their suspect is asked to do so by the police, what happens next is not what you expect!
The book is a sad story as you can imagine, and always feels like its dark and rainy, if that makes sense - just generally very bleak! It is easy to read though, despite the horrific content. I did find though that quite a few points were not addressed, and once I had finished the book I still had questions. I hoped that by watching the TV series this may clear up any questions I had, but as the following books and the TV series are all set many years later, the questions were never answered. May be frustrating for some.
Recommended if you can handle the content, but worth the read.
Nineteen Seventy Four is the first installment of David Peace's Red Riding Quartet, filmed recently on Channel 4 as part of a trilogy, that examines a corrupt Yorkshire Police force and the lengths they will go to to hide their dirty laundry. Having watched the TV series and wanting to delve deeper into the story, I decided to borrow this from my local library. Nineteen Seventy Four, as well as being the first of four novels based around similar events over several years, is also Peace's debut. Peace would later go on to write The Damned United, also recently filmed, about deceased football manager Brian Clough.
Eddie Dunford has returned to his roots, after a brief stint at Fleet Street, to become The Yorkshire Post's premier Crime reporter and soon finds himself involved in a story he can really get his teeth into; a young school girl has gone missing on her way home from school and there are strong, hidden implications that she may not be the first. But why are the Yorkshire Police going to such ends to down-play any links? And how is Eddie's investigation related to that of his colleague, a conspiracy theorist and fellow reporter currently working on a scandal story that has high-reaching consequences for local business men? As Eddie draws closer and closer to the truth, more and more people seem to want him to remain quiet.... then the girl's body is discovered with mutilated swans wings sewn on her back. Is this a new development that distances her from the other missing girls or just a way of throwing enquiring minds off the scent?
Nineteen Seventy Four, written from Eddie's perspective, is a very bleak and unhappy tale with extremely dark overtones like a thunderstorm just waiting to break. I didn't find the book paticulary well written and was not keen on Peace's style but having seen the TV mini-series certainly worked to my advantage as I already had a fairly good idea what was going on though a few of the details have been changed. Essentially though this is the same story and it is easy to see the characters in the book as their television counter-parts- Warren Clarke for example fits his role from the book remarkably well. I will read the next installment because I would like to see how else the story subtly changes over the next few books but this is only something I think I would read once as it is not a book that stands out in any way as something amazingly brilliant. Those new to this story might be better checking out the Channel 4 series currently available on DVD as the only thing this book really has going for it is that it is relatively short. It's an okay kind of read but that is about it and certainly adds little to it's TV adaptation.
If you like your crime fiction gritty, grim and uncompromisung then this is probably for you but others may find this a bit too depressing to endure for long. As the corrupt Police are quick to point out to Eddie ~ "This is the North and here we do what we want!"