Crime Fiction

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Girl on Fire

Freyja admits she might try more detective novels having read Tony Parsons' latest DC Max Wolfe book.
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I have never before read anything by Tony Parsons, but as his first crime fiction book – The Murder Bag - was reviewed favourably at one of our group’s previous meetings, I thought I had better have a go. Especially as our reading theme in June was to read something by an author recommended by someone else.

Tony Parsons wrote his first book at the age of 17. He has also been a distillery worker, a music journalist, a regular journalist, a contributor to various BBC programmes and a writer of more serious fiction before starting his crime writing career in 2014 with the much acclaimed The Murder Bag.

When my eyes alighted on Girl on Fire, with its picture of the young girl walking along a lonely road and the tag line: ‘Will she live to tell the truth?’ it made me think that it was going to be a psychological thriller. But that proved to be misleading. It is in fact Tony Parsons’ latest crime book featuring the detective Max Wolfe.

This is the write-up on the back of the book:

“When terrorists use a drone to bring down a plane on one of London's busiest shopping centres, it ignites a chain of events that will draw in the innocent and guilty alike. DC Max Wolfe finds himself caught in the crossfire in a city that seems increasingly dangerous and hostile. But does the danger come from the murderous criminals that Max is tracking down? Or the people he's trying to protect? Or does the real threat to Max lie closer to home?”

This is rather a gripping story. The terrorist angle is well described and has a very real feel to it. But it soon becomes clear that there is more to it than that. And here I shall not give away what is really going on, suffice to say it is not quite what I expected.

I like the writing. The author has the knack of making you feel right in there with the action, be it the entry of the armed response unit and the anti-terrorist squad to the suspects’ house or while rooting for Max and his daughter in their dealings with the absent and rather uncaring wife and mother. The station that Max works out of feels authentic, his colleagues feel like real people and the description of mass grief after the initial atrocity and later of the race riots brought back memories of the scenes seen on our TV screens after 9/11 and after the London Riots in 2011.

I don’t normally much like series of crime books all featuring the same detective. Especially if said detective is a maverick who does not follow the rules and who is at constant odds with his team and his superiors. But in fairness Max Wolfe is not like that, at least not from what I can see from this book – the one and only Tony Parsons I have so far read.

I also often find that when the same detective is featured in a number of books his family - and other relationships - take up too much time to explain and are too convoluted. The author avoids this trap by making Wolfe’s family very small, in essence just his young daughter and his dog. And he makes them so real that I actually became interested in them.

So, this was a pleasant surprise (well not exactly pleasant as the subject matter was pretty horrific) and I shall be looking out for more Tony Parsons books. As the members of the crime fiction book group who like the more straightforward detective stories rather that psychological thrillers would say: ‘There is hope for me yet’.

Freyja

Our book group is very informal and anyone can drop in. We don’t have a set reading list but we do discuss the books and authors we’ve been reading. In this way all of us have discovered new authors we enjoy. So, if you’d like to come along to our next meeting, we’d be pleased to see you at Oundle Library on Friday, 19 July at 2.30pm.