Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway

The minute I finished reading Hawthorn & Child, I logged on to amazon.com to buy more of Keith Ridgway’s work and wondered why I hadn’t come across him before now. I love books that capture your attention in the first paragraph and keep you up all night reading and Hawthorn & Child is definitely in that category.

Edgy, fragmentary, literary —  it is unusual and original and although on the surface it might be described as crime fiction there is a lot more going on here in a relatively short novel that will hang around in your head long after you’ve finished reading it.

In a way, the chapters in Hawthorn & Child are a little like a series of the sort of tenuously related episodes you might experience in a dream and, in fact, where dream stops and reality begins is one of the themes present from the very outset.

Hawthorn & Child opens with two detectives on their way to investigate a shooting. Child is driving, Hawthorn is asleep and dreaming.  Reality intrudes on the dream and sirens sound as the two detectives make their way to visit the victim of a shooting.

At the hospital, the victim waiting to undergo surgery reports that he was shot by “a beautiful old car” — a vintage car with running boards that came out of nowhere and that nobody else seems to have seen.

We never do find out if the car is real or who was driving it. Instead, through the following chapters, we are introduced to a variety of other characters that touch in different ways — some more significant than others — on the main protagonists. They range from the detectives’ boss, Rivers, and his troubled artistic daughter, to a pickpocket and his girlfriend who communicate with each other by writing their private thoughts in a shared diary, from a soccer referee who sees ghosts on the football pitch to a book editor that might be a serial killer.

The reader catches glimpses of these various characters and is left to try to work out where they fit, whether they are real even and how or whether the different fragments fit together.

Hawthorn & Child is a really original novel. I’m looking forward to reading more of Keith Ridgway.

This review is of the Kindle edition of Hawthorn & Child which I purchased on amazon.com.

Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway is published by Granta.
ISBN: 978 1 84708 528 3


Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwall

Having kept Port Mortuary with a great sense of anticipation while I finished reading a couple of other novels, I’m sorry to say that it didn’t live up to my expectations. I had heard that Patricia Cornwall was back on form with Port Mortuary so I had expected to be drawn in from the first pages and held throughout the remainder. In the event, I found that the first half of the book hard to get into and the non-stop acronyms were distracting and sometimes made for difficult reading. More than once, I had to flick back to remind myself what a particular acronym stood for. Eventually, the story did come together and the last part of the book is much stronger. Having said all of that, it is still a fast read and I did not consider abandoning it. If you are a Patricia Cornwall fan, and you haven’t already read this, then I am sure that you will want to. If you are new to her writing, I would recommend that you start with some of her earlier novels which, for my money, I think are much better.

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson and Martin Dugard

In common with many children of my generation, I went through a phase of being fascinated by ancient Egypt and watched the various movies that were around in the 70s and 80s inspired by Egyptology. So the story of Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen is reasonably familiar to me.

An easy read

The Murder of King Tut is an easy read – ostensibly non-fiction it read more like fiction to me and the best parts of the tale in my opinion are the sections describing the relationship between Nefertiti and her husband, and later between Tutankhamen and his sister/wife.

The Howard Carter story line seemed to lack depth of character while the interjections of Patterson’s own reactions and observations, including those on his femme fatale wife, seemed to add little to the overall telling of the tale.

Short chapters and wide margins make for a quick read. I found The Murder of King Tut enjoyable – a good holiday read but perhaps not to be taken too seriously.