I am always a big fan of books with female leads and I like a bit of humour with my crime. Therefore I thought a novel by Brooke Magnanti (of Belle de Jour Fame) would have been right up my street. She is talking in a session at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival called Set a Scientist to Catch A Killer.
The Turning Tide features Erykah MacDonald. She is about to leave her husband of twenty years for her rower girlfriend, until a win on the lottery changes things. This coincides with the discovery of a dead body up in the Hebrides, which has been in the water so long identification is nearly impossible. Add in a Scottish political party, a past she’d rather keep hidden and a penchant for whisky and you have a crime story.
However I have to say that unfortunately for me the whole thing fell a bit flat. I really wanted to like it, and did enjoy it to a point but I rather struggled to finish it. I think the main issue for me was that it wasn’t completely obvious if it was meant to be a comedy or a serious novel. I like both of those, and have read some excellent black humoured novels but this seemed to not know what it was. Some characters were clearly meant to be for comedy value, such as the Moustached Colonel, but then he was written as a serious person which let it down a bit.
I suspect that part of the problem was that personally I just felt there was too much going on. It was almost like someone had done a brainstorm on novel ideas and then tried to put all of them into one story which just felt a little too much.I actually like the sub-story involving social media better than the main plot line.
There were some good bits. On the whole I liked the character of Erykah, yes she was a bit shallow and at times acted rather stupidly (it was a few days ago that I read this and haven’t got it in front of me to check but I could swear there was a bit where she thought she had a real key but it turned out to be made of chocolate) She was at least quite a strong female lead. She was sporty, drank whiskey and wasn’t running round after men. Some of the other characters were also interesting, but there just seemed to many of them with too many in depth details of their lives. Every drink of whisky was given a detailed tasting, and every rowing stroke was dramatically accounted. It was clear that Brooke Magnanti knows her stuff be it whisky or pathology but sometimes there can be too much in a story and it just makes it too long.
This was obviously the first in a series and I would give the next one a go. However I would hope that a bit of good editing will make it a much better prospect.