Author, Book review, crime/thriller, England, Fiction, Hatchette Books Ireland, Publisher, Robert Fannin, Setting

‘Falling Slowly’ by Robert Fannin


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.

Author, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, Hatchette Books Ireland, Ireland, Publisher, Setting, Tana French

‘The Likeness’ by Tana French


Fiction-paperback; Hatchette Books Ireland; 696 pages; 2009.

The Likeness is a hugely entertaining if slightly preposterous crime story set in Ireland starring Detective Cassie Maddox, first introduced to us in Tana French‘s startling good debut novel In the Woods.

This time Cassie’s taken her career down a notch: she’s no longer working in the Murder Squad but is enjoying the regular 9-to-5 grind of the domestic violence division. But when a woman is found murdered in a ruined Wicklow cottage, Cassie is brought in to do some very special undercover work. In a strange twist of fate it turns out that the victim is her doppleganger. She even has the same name Cassie used when she did some undercover work early on in her career — Lexie Madison.

The idea is that Cassie pretends to be the murdered woman so that she can return to the house Lexie shared with four other post-grad students — Daniel, Rafe, Justin and Abby — all of whom are under suspicion for her murder.

Despite the ludicrous idea that it would be possible to pick up where the original Lexie left off without anyone realising the switch, The Likeness comes across as a fairly solid if not truly believable psychological thriller come who-dun-it. It does, however, take its time getting to the crux of the matter, as French spends almost 200 pages explaining how Cassie prepares for her undercover assignment. But once she’s in the house, the narrative kicks off into high-gear, exploring the cultural and social tensions within and without the tight-knit group of five. The  pace is pretty much relentless from then on.

At 696 pages this is a perfect holiday read, because you only need take one book with you. It’s not highbrow literature by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a good meaty read that will have you guessing all the way to the very end. I very much enjoyed it, especially the tinges of Barbara Vine and Nicci French which give it that special page-turning quality.

My only quibble — and it’s a small one — is the romance between Cassie and a fellow detective that underpins the main narrative. While it might serve to make the characters appear more human, more rounded, it actually comes across as a writer trying too hard to appeal to a generalised chick-lit type audience. And, for me, the sappy romantic ending almost made me choke on my toast, ruining what had otherwise been a pretty fabulous (in all sense of the word) read.