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The Deaths Paperback – 5 Jun 2014
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'Astonishingly expansive, hilarious and heartbreakingly dark' Julie Myerson, Observer, Best Holiday Reads 2013
'Mark Lawson’s dark social satire on the British upper middle classes, skewers with precision this group of rich professionals who have grown fat and well-holidayed during the New Labour boom years but are now coming to a crunch point . . . Lawson’s skill is to make his characters believable and, despite their odiousness, to make us care about them and their (possibly terrible) fate.’
' Financial Times
‘Mark Lawson writes with a forensic eye for detail, exposing the foibles of his characters with scalpel-like precision. A wonderful, bitingly satirical, achingly true, warts and all portrait of modern middle-class England – and a true shocker of an ending’ Peter James
'A wickedly witty snapshot of contemporary life' Cambridge News
'Sharp and very funny . . . wonderfully vivid and detailed' Guardian
'A cleverly constructed crime novel that's really a dark comedy of social observation and satire.' Choice Magazine
'a wickedly witty snapshot of contemporary life.' Irish Examiner
'sharply observed and blackly funny' Metro Scotland
'Mark Lawson’s bleak satire on England’s new aristocracy pulls no punches' Observer
'packed with superbly sharp observation' Sunday Times
'written with panache' The Times (Saturday Review)
ambitious, relevant, brave and full of humour and heart (Julie Myerson, Books of the Year Observer)
a biting satire which skewers the moneyed classes while throwing them the occasional sliver of sympathy. We know from the start that the father from one of four wealthy families from the same idyllic village has massacre his wife and offspring and then himself, but Lawson takes us through several hundred gripping, intricately plotted pages before we find out 'whodunnit' (Annual Books Round-Up 2013 guardian)
The dialogue is good, the social comedy of manners is excellent . . . both fluent and funny . . . it is sharply written and astutely observed. This is an amusing and at times hilarious novel . . . The conclusion is moving, even redemptive . . . The Deaths is memorable and enjoyable (Novel of the Week The Tablet)
Two in one: a consummately plotted crime novel and a forensic social satire from one of Britain’s most highly regarded broadcasters.See all Product description
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I've read reviews which have talked of The Deaths being a satire on the affluent middle-classes but - by my standards at least - these people strike me more as super-rich than simply affluent. The four couples around which the plot revolves, known as The Eight, own ponies, enormous detached sandstone houses with annexes for live-in nannies and own up to four cars apiece including a 'shopping Beetle'. All their many children are at private schools and only one of the women - Emily, a GP who also seems to be the only character who isn't entirely repulsive - has a job. Oh, except for Tasha, who ostensibly runs a party catering business but whose clients seem only to consist of other members of The Eight.
As you might have guessed, The Deaths is not a novel about people you'd want to spend an afternoon with unless you had money to burn and a lack of any social conscience. The Eight move in the circles of bankers, tycoons and QCs. They're hideous snobs and thinly-veiled racists; they're loud, socially competitive, superficial and spiteful, and Mark Lawson pulls no punches when it comes to lampooning them.
The satire is exceptionally sharp and well-observed and often laugh-out-loud funny as Lawson picks apart the values and lifestyles of The Eight, allowing us to examine them in forensic detail. There are times when it begins to wear thin, though. For instance, it's funny to learn for the first time that Jonny Crossan, a barrister whose father was a member of Thatcher's cabinet, refers to a bowel movement as `a Smedgewick', but less entertaining on the fifth or sixth mention. It's also the case that when Lawson steps out of the adult characters' viewpoints and writes as their teenage offspring, the characterisation is much less successful and cringingly far off the mark.
The Deaths lacks subtlety of tone but is extremely readable and peppered throughout with neatly inserted hints, clues and red herrings that keep the reader guessing until the final outcome. I actually found that I frankly didn't care which of the characters was dead on any emotional level, simply because they are to some degree interchangeable anyway, right down to their matching Australian au pairs, children with names like Henry and Josh and Plum, and their large-dog-small-dog combos (a dopey gundog and a scrappy terrier apiece) and I could feel almost no sympathy for anyone's plight, such as it was. However, this certainly didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book, which I found gleefully and grimly entertaining.
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Most recent customer reviews
very well written with a captivating plot