Author – Mark Lawson
Published – September 2013
Genre – Crime fiction
The blurb for this book describes it as both a ‘consummately plotted crime novel’ and a ‘forensic social satire’, so I was more than a little intrigued. Although not a fan of books which set out to be comedic there was something about this book that forced its way up to the top of my TBR pile.
I actually found this to be a really unusual take on a crime novel. The book opens with ‘The Coffee Guy’ discovering the aftermath of unexpected violence in a tranquil corner of England. This leads to the inevitable arrival of the police and an investigation, but this is a very minor part of the book. There are just short chapters interspersed throughout which feature the investigation, but the main focus is the events that lead up to the deaths.
There are four families living in four almost identical listed houses. The families are very similar, similar cars, similar dogs, similar kids – they even all share the same obsession with a super exclusive coffee club (hence ‘The Coffee Guy’). The families live in each other’s pockets, they entertain regularly and even go on holiday together. However under the seemingly idyllic lifestyles all is not well, there is friction within the group and each of the couples hides it’s own secrets. For one family the secrets lead to a fatal outcome.
In fact they are so similar and the way the book is written is so intriguing that you don’t find out who has died until almost the end of the book. Part of the joy of the book is the continual puzzle as the police investigation drip feeds clues to which family was the one to suffer the horrific fate. Frustratingly this seemed to be well done so I really struggled to puzzle it out before the revelation.
I did find that the similarities of the characters could be a disadvantage as I was left a bit confused at times. The people are obviously supposed to be pretty obnoxious – and they don’t elicit a lot of sympathy from the reader, although the conclusion provides the opportunity for some to show a better side. I am sure that this book and the writer’s style won’t be to everyone’s taste – from the excesses of the stories’ participants to the slightly weird ‘text speak’ that the author attributes to some of the younger members of the families, but I was completely engrossed.
Thank you to Picador for the review copy of this book.
Score – 4/5