Friday, January 11, 2013

Review of Broken Dreams by Nick Quantrill (Caffeine Nights, 2011)

After the death of his wife two years previously, Joe Geraghty has been trying to put his life back together again, working as a private investigator in Hull.  He’s been hired by a local business man to investigate an employee’s absenteeism.  On the night he’s jumped and mugged, the woman he has under surveillance is murdered.  Initially considered a suspect, he starts his own investigation into her death.  Married to a prime mover in the regeneration of Hull, the woman had a tangled personal life, including dealings with Frank Salford, a racketeer who has seemingly gone straight.  Salford is also a key figure in the other case he’s looking into, that of a woman who disappeared a number of years earlier.  Along with his colleagues, Don, a retired cop, and Don’s single mother daughter, Sarah, Geraghty works to solve the cases, sometimes working with the police, other times ploughing his own furrow.

The strength of Broken Dreams is the contextualisation and sense of social reality concerning Hull, its decline and faltering regeneration, and its people.  Quantrill doesn’t romanticize the city, portraying its gritty urbanity, yet he clearly has soft spot for the place.  Geraghty is a likeable enough character who is tenacious, slightly vulnerable, and doesn’t always take the most sensible course of action, and the other characters were well drawn and engaging.  The writing is fairly workmanlike, but has good pace and is all show and no tell.  For the most part the plot worked well and was quite compelling, with a good entwining of the main and subplot.  However, there were a couple of editorial niggles that seemed to jar a little and the ending seemed to fall apart somewhat.  On my reading, there seemed to be only two incidental clues pointing to the killer - neither enough on their own or together to prompt the conclusion that the person was guilty of murder.  Moreover, there was no material evidence and no basis for a confession; Geraghty seemed to just intuitively know who it was.  This was a pity as the plot had been unfolding nicely until then with several potential suspects in the frame.  Nonetheless, Broken Dreams is an interesting PI tale and a promising start to the Geraghty series.

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