TRCH Classic Thriller Season

Book Reviews: March

29 March 16 words: Write Lion
With Don Wright's Forever Forest, Jaq Hazell's I Came to Find a Girl, Darren Simpson's Dust on the Moth, Judith Allnatt's The Silk Factory, Carl Peter Robinson's A Dip in the Jazz Age, and Gerard Byrne's No Man's Audience
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Forever Forest
Don Wright
£20 (Amberley Books)

When it comes to the tricky trees, Wright knows his biscuits. The official historian of Nottingham Forest has crammed 150 years of history into 255 pages, taking us from the Italian freedom fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi’s redshirts to Nigel Doughty’s ambitious plans to build a new stadium at the end of a River Trent walkway – a dream that faded in 2010 when FIFA announced Russia would host the 2018 World Cup. Yes, we know about Old Big ‘Ead. But what about Billy Walker, who during his 21-year stint as manager took us from the Third Division South to the top flight, as well as a 1959 FA Cup win. Elsewhere, Victorian Sam Weller Widdowson invented the shinguard, proposed the referee’s whistle and introduced the 2-3-5 formation that dominated tactics right up to the fifties. And let’s not forget Trent Uni lecturer David Lewis, who designed the current club logo in March 1973. Pub quiz anyone? James Walker  

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I Came to Find a Girl
Jaq Hazell
£7.99 (Self Published)

Set in central Nottingham, I Came to Find a Girl follows art student Mia Jackson and her Trent Uni pals. But amid all the socialising, danger does lurk. Jack Flood, a narcissistic bad boy of the London art world, seeks out the ‘real’ Nottingham and heads for the inner city, video camera in hand. After having a drink with Flood, Mia wakes up face down and naked in his hotel room, with no memory of what’s happened to her. Is she to be the next to appear in one of his sinister video diaries? The author is a former Trent Poly graduate and she captures the city and its student life. There’s mystery, a missing girl and a serial killer on the loose, but this well-written psychological thriller isn’t afraid to break with crime fiction convention.

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The Dust on the Moth
Darren Simpson
£20 (Bees Make Honey)

Conceived via Kickstarter as an ambitious multimedia collaboration, The Dust on the Moth is no ordinary book. Plucked from the slush pile by Nottingham creative community Bees Make Honey, given gorgeous illustrations and a soundtrack, this book is the story of 8 Asgard Street, its three vulnerable young occupants and their overly chummy landlord, the repellent Mr Malarkey. Meanwhile, somewhere else entirely, just on the line between science fiction and fairytale, the rulers of a place called Midgard debate the practicalities of outlawing love. The voyeuristic Mr Malarkey makes for an effectively grotesque and unnerving villain, but the whimsical half of the narrative on Midgard doesn’t quite match up, its inhabitants painted with strokes too broad to engage the reader completely. The Dust on the Moth is an uneven piece of work, but remains a weird, unsettling mix of whimsy, science fiction and the very, very creepy. Robin Lewis

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The Silk Factory
Judith Allnatt
£7.19 (The Borough Press)

Judith Allnatt’s fourth novel, The Silk Factory, is a wonderfully complex work of historical fiction. Written as a split narrative, alternating between the nineteenth century and the present day, it references the trials and tribulations that surrounded the frame-breaker’s movement of 1811/12, which impacted factory workers in Nottingham and the Midlands. A strong orientation and a sense of place is recurrent throughout the novel. Rosie Milford, the novel’s protagonist, inherits a house in an old silk mill after her mother’s death and moves there with her two young children. The mill serves as an anchor to the novel’s plot, a link between the two strands of narrative and the characters that inhabit them. The Silk Factory draws elements of the supernatural in parts, playing on the mind’s ability to create and distort memory. The psychological aspect lends depth and authenticity to the novel’s characters, which linger long after reading. Helen Frear

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A Dip in the Jazz Age
Carl Peter Robinson
£18 (Boo Books)

Miles simply ran out of luck, starting out with his girlfriend leaving him with the remains of his wrecked car. When his world comes crashing to a literal and metaphorical halt, it begins to dawn on him that he must do anything but find himself. Through his gentlemanly comrade Alastair and his everyman electrician Jeff, Miles begins to piece his world back together. Discovering alliances in the unlikely place of the old Ponsonby Club, a well-to-do establishment where our protagonist is drawn to Evie and a spark immediately ignites. Robinson’s novel is a thought-provoking, soul-searching journey that is consistently amusing without compromising the tone of the novel, using a Wodehouse atmosphere and the unmistakeable feel of genuine humanity as we follow the unpredictable and uncontained antics of Miles Howard. This book is more than worthy of your ‘must read’ list. Harry Robinson

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No Man's Audience
Gerard Byrne
£8.99 (Nemesis Publishing)

Fans of unreliably narrated, dark, violent and often oppressive psychological novels will lap up this offering. Set “thirty years ago” in a house shared by three couples and, from the off, overshadowed by the knowledge that a murder has been committed, this tale is presented as a series of interviews with the six protagonists. Each has a different slant on the malevolence that comes to dominate their fractured and self-serving relationships. This polyphonal narrative leaves the reader increasingly unsettled by the most frequently interviewed character, Lester, who owes much to Edgar Allan Poe's treacherous narrator in The Tell Tale Heart. Links with Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory are never far away either. The novel's conclusion is intelligently constructed and the reader is left to wrestle with a range of challenging moral concerns. Sharper editing of many grammatical solecisms would have helped, as would the excision of some rather drab philosophising but – overall – this is a menacing and controversial work. David Winsor


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