Top positive review
Less crime novel, more character study of a long held secret in the sleepy village of Duneen. Hugely enjoyable and perceptive.
9 July 2017
When I heard that Graham Norton had written a crime novel, I confess to being sceptical purely because his larger than life persona and innuendo laden jokes scream the very opposite of a subtle and dark crime author. I am largely indifferent to much of his television and comedy work but Holding was an unexpected delight. It didn’t need to have caricatures or play for laughs and whilst there is never really much of a rigorous police investigation between its pages, it is full of beautiful observations about the life and times of the sleepy town of Duneen and the various characters who have made it home. Whilst there is a mystery at the heart of this story, it is the characters that prove fascinating as the first sign of a police investigation signals the channels opening and over fifty-years of secrets and unspoken words begin to come tumbling out.
For fifteen-years, Sergeant Patrick James (PJ since his christening) Collins has kept a watchful eye on the residents of Duneen, just outside of Cork. In truth, there has been relatively little for the overweight PJ to keep under control with the overpriced grocery shop and garage of Main Streets the extent of the activity. The locals rub alongside fifty-three-year-old PJ well enough, keep him well-fed and are perfectly amicable, but he can’t shake the feeling that his weight and undemanding post has left him silently ridiculed. All that changes just as he is midway through eating a jam scone when a long dormant building development rolls into action and unearths what looks like human bones. Formerly a farm and now wildly overgrown, PJ has to inform Cork of the discovery, but with the gossip grapevine in overdrive the first rumours of just who the bones belong to soon make it to PJ’s ears. The word on Main Street is that the bones are those of Tommy Burke, and his disappearance years ago following his dalliances with two women was thought to be behind his sudden departure. Both of the women involved still reside in the village and a furious fist fight marked the height of a bitter tug of war over Tommy. Unhappily married and barely concealing her drink problem, mother of two Brid Riordan was once engaged to Tommy only to be deserted. For lonely Evelyn Ross, youngest of a trio of sisters who still live together in their old family home, life has passed her by after her adored Tommy disappeared and her domineering older sisters shoehorned her into never leaving Duneen. Yet it is not just these two women who are curiously ruffled by the discovery and PJ’s housekeeper, Mrs Meany, remains anxiously tight-lipped and reluctant to speculate. Detective Superintendent Linus Dunne arrives from Cork and sees what he has to work with in PJ (“Sergeant Sumo”) and his heart sinks, but PJ’s own appeal to the towns ladies soon starts to prove very beneficial…
Warm and witty, this is a feel-good read that offers some insightful and sensitive observations about all of the central characters. For all the humour and emotional upheaval, this is not an edge of the seat read but a perfect book for a rainy day that makes you appreciate the people who populate your social sphere. I hate saying that novels are ‘quiet’ because it makes them sound so bland and that isn’t the case as Norton’s wounded characters slowly reveal their scars and repair the wounds of the past.
Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)