Posts Tagged ‘John Bowen’

Death Stalks Kettle Street by John Bowen

November 22, 2016 - 8:14 pm No Comments

Death Stalks Kettle Street by  John Bowen
Page Count: 374
Release date: 9th December 2016
Reviewed by Chris Amies

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Greg Unsworth has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Massive, almost-crippling OCD that makes it difficult for him to get out of the house and he has to count backwards from 100 before he can cross the road. His world is circumscribed by drawing comic-book characters, making trips to the local shop, and occasional excursions to the city.
Beth Grue is an aspiring writer. She has Cerebral Palsy but doesn’t let that stand in her way. More of an issue for her at the moment is that the teacher of her Creative Writing class assumes wrongly she’ll be an easy catch.
And in the town they live in, the suburban peace is about to get broken by a series of inexplicable and vicious murders.
I enjoyed this novel. I felt the narrative bowled along. The murders are intriguing and Bowen sets us up from the first to expect what is known as a ‘cosy’ … but then there is nothing cosy about murder, and it has ramifications, not least in this case where Greg seems to be being set up to take the blame. Teaming up with Beth the two of them set off to find out what is going on. There are suitable blind alleys and red herrings and characters who could easily have done it, but did they? The reader has to read and find out.
The two protagonists having respectively OCD and CP was intriguing and convincing especially about the question which all must be asked, without actually saying it: What’s wrong with you? Both are tough characters in their way and their relationship develops interestingly. The secondary characters are well-rounded: throughout there is a theme of people not being reducible to a word or an adjective: that one story tends to become the only story. Your adjective is not your definition or your limitation. A similar lack of definition extends to the novel’s setting: the characters’ home town (‘Northcroft’) is likely Northfield, a southern suburb of Birmingham, and the ‘city’ is clearly Brum, including a good description of the new Library. They aren’t named as such though which allows the writer to take liberties with their geography.
There is no supernatural element to the story, unlike some of John Bowen’s other work. Instead “Death Stalks Kettle Street” marks a strong and confident turn towards the detective genre.