Fiction – paperback; Hachette Books Ireland; 307 pages; 2010.
Desmond Doyle makes ends meet by working in a vegetarian shop. His girlfriend, Daphne, is a struggling actress slowly sinking into depression.
One day Doyle — he is known by his last name, not his first — returns home, accompanied by his boss, Geoff, to find Daphne lying dead in the bath, her wrists slashed. It looks like a straightforward suicide, but the police have other ideas, and both Doyle and Geoff are arrested on suspicion of murder.
Did either of them do it? Detective Inspector Harry Kneebone seems to think at least one of them is the killer, but has his intuition let him down on this one?
And what of the artist, Gina Harding, whom Doyle later meets, whose paintings depict Daphne in the bath? Gina swears she doesn’t know the girl in the picture, but is she telling the truth? Or is Doyle’s grief getting the better of him? Is he losing his marbles?
Falling Slowly is billed as a psychological thriller, but the early chapters have the look and feel of a police procedural. The arrest and subsequent release of Doyle (and Geoff) without charge leaves the investigation on shaky ground.
Kneebone, as the jaded, burnt-out cop, feels like a walking, talking cliché. But his presence in the story does serve a purpose: he shakes up Doyle’s world to such an extent that you’re not sure whether Doyle is as weak and ineffectual as he comes across. Maybe he is capable of carrying out a horrendous crime. Maybe he is insane and just putting on a good act.
In that respect the characterisation is very good. Doyle is likable if annoyingly lame, the kind of chap who lacks self-confidence and lets things happen to him rather than fighting his corner. You can quite clearly see that he is out of his comfort zone and his grip on reality is slowly disintegrating.
Even Daphne, while dead before the novel takes off, is strangely alluring.
But the narrative seems slightly unsure of itself, wavering between crime and drama, and not knowing which to settle on.
And while the Bristol-based, Irish-born author is a deft hand at delivering unexpected bombshells — and red herrings — not all of them are believable.
There’s plenty of momentum though, which builds up to an exciting climax. I guessed the ending long before I reached it, and I felt that some of the loose ends were tied up too well and too quickly, lending it the raffish kind of air you would normally expect from a TV drama. But if you ignore some of the more outlandish elements, Falling Slowly is an entertaining story, perfect if you’re looking for a holiday or beach read.