Friday, July 1, 2022

A wee taste of the good stuff


I’m reading a book for blurb purposes. The person who wrote it is an ex journalist and an award winning writer, very political and sensible. Feminist and all round jolly good human being. They write books of a very high literary standard, the words float of the page and into your head. It’s all rather magical. Normally nobody dies unless they are dying in a ‘Beaches’ kind of way. Or of TB while leaning on a mantlepiece.


My idea of literary fiction......having never read any!

Their books are normally…  err… books that not crime books – I have no idea what to call them. They are fiction and socially relevant, beautifully written but after 13 years of constantly reading crime fiction, writing crime fiction and immersing myself in the stuff, this ‘proper writing’ is an unusual thing for me to look at.

 Oh yes, literary fiction.


                                                   Questioning was what going on in this book

                                               Older man drawn to younger, scheming female beauty?

I think one of the reasons I was asked to have a look at it is that the book is set in a fictional police force. The squad are trying to solve a fictional crime, the serial killer called The Butcher, a thinly disguised very famous crime, and as time has passed, it has come to light that… (well has it come to light or are we looking at the past through the prism of today) with regard to the case in question, the sexism of the police force prevented a serial killer (who only killed women) from being apprehended much earlier.

With regard to the real case, I’m not sure it’s true that the case could have been concluded earlier than it was – in the end it was sheer luck. This was pre digital age, pre HOLMES ( Home Office Major Enquiry System) and its successors. The investigation was the biggest ever, the police were swamped with paperwork. The investigation room had to have the floor reinforced due to the weight of the documentation.  Yes, the media took great exception when the killer killed a ‘nice girl’ rather than the  prostitutes/sex workers that he had killed up to that point.  But the fact was the killer had changed his MO, it wasn’t only sex workers in the red light areas the police were warning to take care, it was every woman out after dark. One chief officer was quoted as saying that woman should stay in, or go around in pairs.  The response nowadays to that was it was victim blaming and  men should have stayed in to allow women to go out. If all women  kept their men at home, then the killer would also be kept at home.

Yes, because that would work?? Sarcastic emoji.

I do recall the actual case  from the front of newspapers when I was a very small child. The rest of my knowledge has come from all the subsequent documentaries. The writer of the book I’m ‘reviewing’   is just a little older than me, maybe an early teen, maybe older, maybe old enough to have been on her own on a university  town while all this was going on.

On her own.


                                                 Nasty book of mind, but there's a symbiotic relationship;

                                                a feeder and a feedee. The genders, I think are irrelevant.


The book is incredibly powerful,  the struggles of a young female cop trying to make her way in a police force that really has no idea what to do with a young female except ask her to make the tea and comfort young children caught up in trauma. The portrayal of the heroine is subtly drawn. It would be so much easier to make her ballsy, witty,  a tour de force where nothing is going to get in her way as she strives to the top. I can name loads of books with that going on. Including a few of my own.

But this heroine belongs in literature, there’s a sadness about her, a melancholy, a lack of self almost. I’m half way through and, as the song says she still   hasn’t found what she’s looking for. When her clever observations make a break in the case, the male partner takes the credit. It’s not done maliciously; it’s the way they operated. Our heroine  notes it, but says nothing. She has her own battles on the domestic front to fight, and she’s not winning any of them.  She’s not fighting them on the page, it’s all a dark but largely invisible thread that weaves through her professional life.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to her.  Emotionally, she’s caught. On one side are her male colleagues, who might be joshing with her but, I hope, will start to see her as an equal human being. Even if they do go on about her nice legs, I’d like to think they’d run to her aid if needed, as they would any other colleague.

Her new ‘mates’ are feminists  of various degrees of extremist ideology. Our heroine is a bit of a fox in the hen house, listening to her housemates criticise the way the police are dealing with the atrocities of the Butcher. She can’t say what she does for a living – one of her pals thinks she works in the police canteen.


                             Book 1 Young female cop bottom of the tree, 2 male superior colleagues.

                             Book 3  Female boss. Male, them female, then 2 male underlings.


And of course, she herself is on the run from domestic abuse.

 I’m fascinated to see which way the story goes.

It’s like Margaret Atwood writing a serial killer drama.

It’s very good.

I’ve been imagining my own ending ( not my own ending, I'm imagining how I would write the ending in this book from the 75% mark)…. The heroine makes her point but dies in the process…. At the hands of the Butcher or the hands of her domestic abuser, I’m not sure.  I think her feminist pals will let her down when they find out  she’s a cop. The fact she’s a woman making it in a man’s world will pass them by.  But her friends, either gender, those who respect her will, in some way, tip the scales of justice and morality in her favour.

I wonder how close I am to what a really good writer has written. I suspect I’m nowhere near the ‘right’ ending…. 

Watch this space.



  1. So is your blurb going to be: "Literary crime fiction, it kept me guessing till the end" or "If Margaret Attwood wrote serial killer crime..."?

  2. It may have been "pre-HOLMES," but sure seems classic WATSON (When-A-Traditional-Sleuth-Opposes-NOW).

  3. I do read some literary fiction, but I can't say I'm rushing to grab this one...rather one of your books, Caro.