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.
Graham Norton's masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.
First things first, yes this is the Graham Norton, host of Eurovision and his eponymous chat show and bringer of life to Father Noel Furlong. Now I'm not generally drawn to celebrity penned novels but the description of Holding sounded exactly the sort of book I enjoy and eschewing a book because its writer is a celebrity is as ridiculous as choosing it for that reason.
And I'm very glad I did! Holding isn't a game changer but it is a well written, observant and warm novel. It does feel a little anachronistic, despite being set in the present it isn't a gritty, modern thriller, it's more gently paced and brought to mind the sort of Sunday night crime dramas that families can sit down to together - Midsomer Murders Irish style perhaps...? However, it doesn't shy away from the darker side of life despite not being brutally realistic. The characters, perhaps unsurprisingly, are what drive the novel. PJ Collins, in particular is the heart of the story, an outsider but not in the exciting, dangerous sense. PJ is overweight, dissatisfied in his career and often socially awkward. However, he is also immensely likeable, a warm and empathetic character who serves as our eyes into this seemingly quiet community that actually hides dark secrets and regrets. A sense of dissatisfaction and disappointment runs through the book, this is a very human story, although a murder may have occurred it's really more about life and the decisions people make, rightly or wrongly. It is occasionally over descriptive and as I say isn't a game changer but it is a warm and enjoyable slice of small town life with a satisfying mystery that kept me guessing for the most part. An assured debut then and I hope Norton writes more, particularly if it means we have more Sergeant Collins.
Holding is published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton. Thank you for my copy received through NetGalley in return for my review.