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In my job I get plenty of junk mail from companies trying to flog us stuff. One day I received an envelope that contained the mock up of the front cover of a book. The book in question was a non-fiction title that promised to help you write your own crime novels by going through certain steps including creating the characters and layering the plot with clues. If ever there was a genre that did not need more cookie cutter books it is the crime genre. Now due to this book we may be inundated with even more poor, middle of the road and samey mystery books. I wonder if Graham Hurley bought this non fiction title before putting pen to paper on Turnstone?
Joe Faraday is your typical hard working modern police officer. He is the head of an undermanned CID section that oversees crime in Portsmouth. When he is not dealing with the criminals he is tackling the piles of paper work and internal bickering that has increasingly invaded the job. Things come to a head when his deaf son decides to move to France and Faraday begins to investigate the disappearance of a full grown man. Doesnt he know that there are real crimes to fight? Or does Faraday still have the cop instincts that tell him when something fishy is going on?
I had initial high hopes for this novel as it seemed that the setting and characters were quite refreshing. As the offspring of a Southampton fan I know that Portsmouth, the location for this book, is a pretty rough town. The majority of fiction I read is set in America so I thought it would be interesting to get a UK perspective on crime; instead I discovered the reason why its dull. The character of Faraday and his surroundings were also very interesting. The book opens with his 22 year old deaf son having just left to live in France. His wife died soon after he was born, so we have a lonely man unsure of what to do in life in charge of a case. The parts that describe his relationship with his son are the best in the book and have real emotion behind them.
Another areas that was initially interesting was the down to earth and real feel that the book had to crime fighting. Faraday is a hard working police officer who must capture criminals but also deal with internal politics. For the first third of the book Hurley is able to balance the crime and the politics just right, but after this the book veers much deeper into the police work and it gets very boring. There is a reason why we read fiction and not non-fiction, it allows the author to stretch truths and make reality more interesting. Hurley decided not to spare us any of the details and unfortunately he breaks the book.
Hurleys writing skills must also come under fire with the mystery that runs through the book. If you are a fan of Midsummer Murders or Ruth Rendell mysteries you may enjoy it. However, I find the prattling of the chattering middle classes to be deathly dull to read about. We are introduced to a series of characters that I could barely tell apart as they were so dull. The plot tells us of interweaving love affairs and lust, but to be honest I could not tell who was sleeping with who as they all felt like the same person. With a collection of suspects all as dull as each other the book soon descended into a chore.
Having read Nocturne by Hurley I know that he can write well, especially characters. This is the case in Turnstone at the start as Faraday is a very well realised character. Hurley also creates a selection of other police officers that help in the investigation and they are well rounded enough and have enough depth to be interesting. DCI Winter is probably the most ambiguous and best character in the book as he is an old school officer who will do anything to improve his own life. He turns witnesses, but will also snitch to the criminals if he gets a reward. Hurley begins the book by comparing Faradays fair copper with the corrupt Winter and we are meant to support Faraday. This makes the conclusion unbearable when out of character Faraday suddenly turns a blind eye. Why set up a morally strong character just to undermine him for no reason at the end; poor structure again.
Would I recommend this novel to anyone? Probably not as there is plenty of UK based crime fiction out there that must be better. In an overly crowded genre it is important to stand out from the crowd. Hurleys middle of the road characters and cliché story seem almost purposely designed to be one of the crowd. Perhaps fans of ITV crime dramas may find this book passable, but as someone used to better and more edgy crime fiction I suggest give this a miss.
Author: Graham Hurley
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49
Portsmouth is a poor, dirty city on the ropes, with a soaring crime rate. And it is home for DI Joe Faraday. Now Emma Maloney's dad has gone missing. Faraday thinks he may have been murdered. But these days, a hunch is not enough. Faraday's squad of detectives are battling with an ever-growing caseload of a city torn by violence, poverty, drug-dealing and petty crime. Who can spare the time and resources for an investigation unsupported by hard evidence? Joe Faraday is struggling with his own demons, and finding Stuart Maloney, dead or alive, develops into a battle not simply for justice, but for sanity.