Holding by Graham Norton
Published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2016
My copy: Secondhand copy
The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.
So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.
I’m not a particularly big fan of Graham Norton and wouldn’t have even considered picking up this book – except that I read lots of really positive reviews so thought I should open my mind and give it a try! I then spotted it in a local charity shop so felt I had nothing to lose.
The best way to describe this book is as a murder mystery meets Father Ted. It is definitely the characters who make the story, and there are a lot of them! The housekeeper Mrs Meany reminded me of Mrs Doyle, and several of the other characters wouldn’t be out of place in a sitcom – not least the hugely overweight copper who has nothing to do – until the remains of a body are found. The gossipy villagers thoroughly enjoy trying to work out who the bones belong to – and many of them have theories that they are willing to share – but of course everything isn’t as simple as we at first think…
A lot of characters are introduced in this novel, some more significant than others, but I found the main players all well rounded and interesting. We hear about some of their scandalous (for a small town) back stories, and you really do get the sense of everyone knowing all about everyone else, and there being a general lack of privacy living in such a closeted environment. The mystery element of the book isn’t perhaps as shocking or tense as some readers might like – instead it’s quite gently done but there is definitely enough there to keep readers guessing. The story moves along nicely, and as you would expect, it is also injected with humour throughout.
This is a really easy read, with a few unexpected twists and turns. I don’t think it will set the world on fire, but I think that for fans of Graham Norton it will definitely be a winner, but also for those who enjoy lighter-hearted books with a bit of mystery thrown in. There is quite a lot of swearing, and a smattering of sex thrown in, but it’s also quite sweet in places and generally an enjoyable read.
My rating: 7 out of 10