By Simon Maltman
“What Raymond Chandler was to L.A, Maltman is to Belfast, a novelist with an eye for the seedy underbelly of a city.” – Goodreads
The first section of the novel is narrated by Andrew. It begins when he is at his newspaper workplace and the story breaks that his former band mate has died of an apparent overdose. In the nineties their band had been on the cusp of fame. We follow Andrew as he deals with this news, with his wife Jenny and two children. He is presented at first as quite likeable, though perhaps a little difficult and pompous at times too. He gets back in touch with some of his old band mates from ‘Sidewinder’. Lee has continued to play music, Craig has become an important politician and Johnny is a detective in child abuse cases. The various members have been largely out of touch with each other in recent years, some more than others. During this part of the book, Andrew describes some events from the nineties band days in flashback.
The editor of the newspaper asks Andrew to cover the police investigation and it soon turns into a potential murder investigation. The police suspect that the poison sux was used to incapacitate Mike. We also gradually learn that the drummer of Sidewinder- Ted, fell from a window while on drugs in the nineties and that his death essentially ended the group.
There has always been some hostility between Andrew and Johnny, but they meet up to keep one another updated as the case unfolds. It was actually Johnny who had introduced Andrew to his future wife, some years before. In this section of the novel, various strands are slowly unravelling and several characters could be under suspicion by the reader.
Andrew’s relationships with his wife and children are clearly frayed and he has several bad arguments with Jenny. We learn that he has affairs, uses women and progressively that he is not such a nice character at all. Abruptly he admits to us the reader, that he killed both Ted and Mike. This should be a shock and a twist for the reader, but hopefully also a variation on the now clichéd reveal being at the end of a book. The thrust of the story is then ‘why did he do it?’ and ‘will he be caught?’ There is also the tension involved with us knowing who did it and other characters not knowing this.
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