Holding – Graham Norton

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Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

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.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

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I like Graham Norton and I like his humour and his chat. Holding is his debut novel and I wasn’t sure what to expect. However I really enjoyed it. He tells a very good story.

Duneen is a sleepy Irish village where nothing much happens and the residents go about their daily routines although everyone seems to very interested in everyone else’s business. Graham sets the scene beautifully in the first few chapters, describing various locations in the village and the inhabitants. It is easy to picture the people and places. The story is told with humour but Graham doesn’t poke fun at anyone. There are several threads to the story but all cleverly connecting in some way.

The local guard is 53 year old Sergeant P J Collins who is very overweight, unfit and single. There has never been much crime for him to deal with until human remains are uncovered on an old farm by builders and he has to investigate. In fact it’s his first major case although he has to involve colleagues from Cork.

As the investigation proceeds we learn more and more about the various characters and the dark secrets they have been holding on to for a very long time.

There’s Brid Riordan, a wife and mother, who drinks more than she should;
Mrs O’Driscoll who has the local shop/post office/cafe.
The three unmarried Ross sisters  who lived together in the family home just outside the village.
Mrs Meany, the old lady who is Sergeant Collins full time housekeeper and cook.
Susan Hickey, a bit of a busybody and gossip.

Although much of the book centres on the human remains found and the investigation by Sergeant Collins and his colleagues from Cork, I wouldn’t say it was a crime thriller. It is a murder mystery but I feel the story is more about the people and how their pasts connect, and the secrets that are revealed.  I felt quite sad for some of the characters and annoyed at others. Parts of the story made me chuckle as I pictured the scene.

It’s a cosy, satisfying read – and very enjoyable and I hope I get to read more novels by Graham Norton.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a review copy]

 

 

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