I have to confess that although Mark Lawson has made regular appearances at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival over the past few years, I wasn’t aware that he was a novelist in his own right until I saw the advert for The Deaths.
The Deaths opens with the discovery of a dead family. We then flit back in time and are introduced to four families living in a small village. The Eight as they are known, are firm friends and outwardly they seem to have perfect rich lives. The families are all busy trying to be the top dog of the group, the women shop in waitrose (although obviously the supermarket is not named) and the husbands all travel to their jobs via first class trains into the ‘big city’. Conversations are usually about the latest car they’ve bought or how much they earn or what the latest posh coffee delivery has been. However behind the scenes things are not what they seem.
I thought this book was excellent. The story itself is the lead up to the murder of the unidentified family, and I spent the whole read thinking it could be any of them. The characters are all equally irritating and fascinating in equal measure. They spend their time trying to keep up appearances yet behind the scenes the money is running out and credit card bills are getting bigger. The main characters in this book are all pretty stereotypical and based on the assumption that all wealthy people are unpleasant. Yet that shouldn’t put you off as predominately this is a hugely clever observation on life. There are lots of references to culture within the 1990’s and the yuppy attitude that was prevalent.
The crime is almost a minor player in this novel, the focus is on the social situation that the families are in. I enjoyed the story but also the writing. It is almost an observational comedy with an edge that appeals to me and reminded me of authors such as early Ben Elton and a recently discovered Christopher Buckley. This was an excellent novel that I’d definitely recommend to anyone who likes a sarcastic edge to a novel.