Monday, December 24, 2012
Review of The City of Shadows by Michael Russell (Avon, 2012)
The City of Shadows is quite simply a brilliant crime novel. Although his debut novel, Michael Russell has a wealth of experience as a television scriptwriter (Midsomer Murders, A Touch of Frost, Emmerdale) and it shows in the quality of the story, which works at every level - plotting, sense of place, historical contextualisation, characterization. Whilst the plot is expansive and complex, it is straightforward to follow and utterly compelling, grabbing the reader from the start and not letting up in intrigue or pace, and very well structured. There are plenty of twists, turns and feints, with the reader kept guessing until the very end as to the mystery of the disappearance of Hannah’s friend. Russell drops the reader into the landscapes of Dublin, rural Wicklow and Danzig, and the heady mix of state and religious politics both at a senior actor level and how it played out in everyday life. There is real attention to historical detail and recreating the social and political atmosphere of the time. Stefan Gillespie and Hannah Rosen are both wonderful characters, each trying to fight a system that is seemingly too large and powerful. Russell brings both to life and their fragile relationship is well penned, as are the myriad of secondary characters. Overall, The City of Shadows is a entertaining and gripping story that I thoroughly recommend.