Author – Tom Wright
Published – 2012
Genre – Crime fiction
When the CWA Dagger long lists were published earlier in the year I had high hopes of reading one complete list. But life & other books got in the way and when the shortlists were published I’d made no progress and the Gold Dagger, which had been my target, had shed two of the three books I’d read. The good news, though, was that the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger shortlist of 4 included both Wiley Cash and Tanya Byrne – leaving me just two titles to read. A much more achievable target.
So the two other titles on the list are What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright, and Ewart Hutton’s Good People. I’m still struggling to find the Hutton title in a bookshop – but I managed to get the Wright in time to take it on holiday and it was a pretty quick read.
Of course it’s hard to review this now without making some comparison to the other books on the shortlist and the most obvious thing is how the three I’ve read all feel, to some degree, like YA titles. The main character in What Dies in Summer is Biscuit, a teenage boy from a dysfunctional family who is living with his gran. The story opens with him finding his cousin, L.A., in a distressed state on their porch. Little is said about L.A.’s reasons for leaving home, but she moves into the spare room and slowly begins to open up to Biscuit. This feels very much like a YA “coming of age” story, until Biscuit starts having nightmares which feature a mystery dead girl.
It’s not too long before Biscuit and L.A. discover the actual body of a dead girl on the outskirts of town. This would be disturbing enough on its own, but her body has also been mutilated. Biscuit doesn’t set out to find the murderer, but he is beset by a premonition that something bad is going to happen to L.A. or his gran. With this motivation, a few clues and a connection to the police in the shape of his girlfriend’s father, he finds the truth behind the murder.
This doesn’t have the atmospheric quality of the Cash title – although the settings feel quite similar. The book is quite dark – not only is there Biscuit and L.A.’s family, but there are a number of deaths in the book and of course the mutilated girl. Once the story picks up the pace, perhaps the last third of the book, there is a decent murder-mystery, but it’s just a bit hidden within the rest of the story.
In common with Heart-Shaped Bruise, it’s the character’s development which is at the heart of the story, rather than the “crime” element. Perhaps it’s a trend in crime fiction that the familiar aspects of mystery and detection are developed more subtly, but if so it’s not one that I’m a fan of. Of the three book’s I’ve so far read from the Creasey shortlist – my money’s on Wiley Cash.
Score – 3/5