Holding by Graham Norton
I absolutely loved this book!
Shortly into the second paragraph, I stopped being slightly overawed by the fact that I was reading a novel written by THE Graham Norton and quickly settled into the story. The author slowly and skilfully built up each character so that I could picture them in my mind’s eye. The book is set in a small, insular Irish village of Duneen Co Cork, where, of course everyone knows each other’s business and gossip is rife.
Graham Norton is a good observer of people, particularly those who are socially inept, the wallflowers, the shy ones with emotional frailty and deep yearnings and secrets. Of course he’s also a comedy actor with comic timing skills that are used to good effect in his writing with quite a few funny laugh out loud moments and also there is a quiet sort of Irish humour throughout that is very satisfying and makes the book a very enjoyable read.
Hello, Sergeant!’ PJ controlled the groan that threatened to escape his mouth. It was Susan Hickey and another woman he didn’t know. They were both dressed in an odd assortment of heavy-duty rain gear and brightly patterned headscarves, as if they were going to do a little gardening up a mountain.
A body is discovered buried in an old farm and thought to have lain there for almost a quarter of a century. The identity of the corpse is guessed at until forensics discount one possibility but the events following the grisly discovery shake up a few of the female inhabitants and bring back disturbing memories for them. Another body is discovered at the same location and causes one of the central characters to become slightly unhinged, but has a sad backstory that is revealed over time. The inhabitants of the village are all of a flutter, caught up in the excitement of it all.
The main central character is the local Guard PJ, a Sergeant, who is an overweight, endearing middle-aged man and on the small task force trying to discover what happened all those years ago. He has to work alongside a flash Mercedes driving detective that he refers to as ‘the prick from Cork’. The dynamics of the working relationship between the two are as enjoyable and humorous as the rest of the book. I’d like to have seen this relationship explored more.
Women of a certain age in the village seem to find PJ irresistible which only adds to the story and the difficulties he faces trying to investigate the case.
There are a few flashbacks to the past with relevant glimpses into the history of some of the other leading characters in the book that have a bearing on what is going on with them in the present day.
The mystery carries on almost to the end, with some twists and turns.
By the end though, I didn’t really care whodunnit, or what exactly had happened. The book for me was more about the interesting characters and their slowly unraveling lives and relationships. I’m a people watcher too 😉
I am hoping this will be a series with PJ as the investigating officer and central character. More please.
Thank you for my ARC copy from the publishers via NetGalley