I don’t really know what to say about this book. The first in the Red Riding Quartet, which I am reliably informed reads like one big novel, it’s pretty staggering. So much so that when I finished it I felt physically assaulted and quite exhausted. I also felt like I needed to take a shower. Make no mistake, this book is grim, grimy and unpleasant reading. It’s also quite excellent.
Narrated by Edward Dunford, a jaded and disillusioned crime reporter, we are in Yorkshire, hurtling towards Christmas in the titular year. A local girl goes missing and is soon found murdered in a horrifically brutal way (it involves swan wings and thread). Dunford smells a story and goes digging. He uncovers something far more corrupt and twisted than even he thought possible. More deaths begin to pile up and Dunford soon finds he is firmly, quite possibly irreversibly in things over his head.
Peace’s style is quite something. There’s a repetitive throbbing urgency to the prose that drives the narrative inexorably forward. Dunford is such a lumbering numpty on occasion that you will find yourself shrieking at the book as he crashes about and leaves destruction in his wake. However, I did also find myself shrieking at the repeated usage “was sat” throughout the book. I mean, when you’re a journalist, jaded crime reporter or not, you surely know its should be “was seated”, no?
That grammatical gripe was not sufficient to really dent my enjoyment of this story though (which is saying something), and I will definitely be reading the rest of the books in the series. Funnily enough, because I’d been informed they read like one long novel, I expected Dunford to narrate them all. Well, spoiler alert, after the shocking ending to this first entry, he clearly won’t be. Peace doesn’t pull his punches, so this can only mean the other three books will be as gripping. And grim. Bring it on.