Book Review: Perdition's Child (by Anne Coates)
(Contains minor spoilers)
Lockdown might be a strange and difficult experience, but it has meant more time for a lot of things, including reading! So this week I’m very pleased to present another edition of book review corner (picture me sitting in a huge reading chair, with carved gargoyles sprouting around me and the Necronomicon open in my lap, as I peer evilly at you over the alarmingly flesh-like pages…)
My focus in this week’s post is Perdition’s Child, the fourth book in the Hannah Weybridge thriller series, written by Anne Coates and published by Urbane Publications. I met Anne a couple of years ago at a publishing event, where I was desperately trying to figure out what I should be doing, and she was not only very friendly but also a great role model! I also attended the recent launch of this novel and was lucky enough to obtain a signed copy, which has been sitting tantalisingly on my shelf for the past few months. Without further ado, time to dive in!
A man slowly rots...
Having not read the earlier entries in the series, it took me a little while to adjust to the protagonist and the collection of well-written characters that surround her, from her work colleagues at the newspaper (Hannah is an investigative journalist) to her closest family and friends (she is also a single mother with a young daughter, not to mention a tempestuous love life). The structure of the novel, switching effortlessly between the criminal investigation in which Hannah becomes entangled and her personal life and its challenges, put me in mind of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels, as did the tense and perfectly-paced plot.
I found myself quickly liking Hannah and rooting for her as she unravelled a mystery that I won’t spoil here, except to say that the book opens with the discovery of a dead body whose description I found brilliantly compelling: the image of the half-drunk Guinness with its creamy head turned to scum while a man slowly rots in the armchair beside it has stuck with me for days after finishing my read-through. There are many pleasing details and descriptions like this, such as the victim’s quirk of owning three TVs stacked on top of each other so he can keep an eye on every channel.
Only three channels? Yes, this book is set in the nineties, specifically 1994, with Tony Blair becoming Labour party leader during the unfolding story. This allowed lots of delightfully dated technology to feature, including fax machines and the dial-up modems you needed to unplug if you wanted to use your telephone! I’ve never understood the seemingly prevailing theory that you should avoid dating your fiction; this makes absolutely no sense to me. Even if you avoid specifying a particular year or any news events, the technology present will firmly place the book in its time, and I don’t subscribe to the idea that people will not want to read stories set in a prior decade – this is a novel set 26 years ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Anne’s writing style is succinct and effective, the short sentences adding to the sense of urgency and momentum, and the fascinating arcana about journalism, police investigation processes and the publishing industry kept me hooked throughout. Despite the fast pace, there is still time for the story to take in some developments in Hannah’s personal life when she suffers a miscarriage during the novel, and this theme of loss permeates the book, echoing the tragedy that underpins the plot. Our sense of sympathy for the story’s victims (not just those murdered by the cold-blooded killer) grows along with Hannah’s, and we feel a sense of great injustice at some of the evils the reporter is able to expose.
The book contains many more twists and turns including an ending reveal that I did not see coming, and made for a gripping read. If you are a fan of crime thrillers that start out masquerading as ‘cosy’ but quickly suck their protagonist into grave danger, I would highly recommend this, although it may be worth starting with the first book in the series (the other Hannah Weybridge novels are Dancers In The Wind, Death’s Silent Judgement and Songs Of Innocence, all of which can be found here along with Anne’s other books, which include several non-fiction titles).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review, and I look forward to bringing you more in the near future – my next scheduled read is something with a distinctly cyberpunk flavour! Watch this space, and watch out for each other.
Until next time,