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