Graham Norton, best known for his snarky humor and talk show is on the blog today with his debut fictional offering: set in a small Irish town. Please read on for my review of
I’ll admit I’m a fan of Norton’s humor and talk show: I’ve watched it for years and love the sense of fun and humor that he brings to each guest’s interview. So when the chance came up to dive into this novel, I was all in. And I have to say that it was wholly different (in all the best ways) than I expected, and the humorous twists that Norton infuses into his characters and situations are pointed, poignant and add greatly to the tale.
Told in third person, Norton switches perspectives between characters smoothly: allowing the reader to get to know them with subtle insets of personality, backstory and current woes. Bones are found as builders are working at an old farm: and as it turns out, they are human and belong to Tommy, who left the village years ago to never be seen again. Tommy left behind Brid Riordan and Evelyn Ross: both had loved him, and neither has exactly the life they dreamed of. Add to this Garda Sargent, and only member of the police, PJ Collins, set it in a small town with little happening, and the gossip, questions and self-discoveries run amok.
PJ is overweight, bordering on morbidly obese, and rarely even has minor vandals to contend with: so a murder mystery seems so far beyond his scope of abilities that much of the story focuses on his being shuffled to a supporting role under DS Linus Dunne in from Cork to run things. PJ has always felt his own lacks far more seriously than anyone else ever truly believed. Food and his weight have become his go-to: hiding from emotions, relationships and building walls to keep himself safe from the constant jibes and judgements. But, when his resentment actually spurs his determination to investigate and discover the story leading to Tommy’s death, he starts to gain confidence and even find a bit of an awakening personally. When you add in Brid, her alcoholism and 2 children that she is raising alone in this small, judgmental Irish town, and mix in Evelyn and her unease with her life not being all it can be, the three become a ripe tapestry of humanity: flawed, noble, secretive, judgmental and even a bit vulnerable.
And this is what Norton does with such grace: he presents the town filled with the things people do and don’t say, but show in every moment. The us versus them moments where outsiders are clearly that, how things are done is everything, and yet, gossip and speculation run through like scent on air. None are immune to it, all take part, and while most isn’t meant to be mean-spirited or malicious, sometimes the result is the same: limiting personalities, personal growth and choices all in the name of belonging. Throughout these tiny (and not so) dramas of spirit that occur regularly, Norton is dropping hints and clues to the true story of Tommy’s disappearance and murder, sifting through the truths, half-truths and outright lies keeps readers engaged as the who and why shift repeatedly throughout the pages. I loved the story for the innate small-town sensibilities that just happen to come with an Irish accent, the characters and the twists that reverberate from the ages-old murder to reveal secrets buried not quite well enough.
Author: Graham Norton
Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery, Setting: Ireland, Small Town
Published by: Atria Books
Published on: 1 August, 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 7 Hours: 26 minutes
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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.
Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore - with searing honesty - the complexities and contradictions that make us human.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.