She’s come all the way across London to this little shop in Wimbledon, somewhere nobody knows her, to buy a specialist hunting knife. She carries no ID, just cash – a cover story all worked out: her husband will be hunting for the first time, big promotion up for grabs and he needs to impress. So she will have to gut, slice and cook whatever he manages to shoot. She’s pleased with her invention and has topped it off with a disguise: waxed jacket and riding boots she bought from Oxfam yesterday. She’s also wearing lots of make-up. Mutton dressed as mutton. She spent all morning in front of a mirror perfecting her cut-glass home-counties accent, reborn as Hilary Clifton-Hastings. Nobody can refuse to sell a hunting knife to a Clifton-Hastings.
observations: This complex book was recommended to me by blogfriend Col, of Col’s Criminal Library. I first read Viner’s novella, The Sad Man, which is being given away free for Kindle in the hope of luring in buyers for Winter. I was really impressed by The Sad Man – as it turns out, slightly more than by this one, although it is a real twisty, plot-driven thriller - a first novel doing very well for itself. Dani is a young woman who was killed 20 years ago: her father talks to her ghost; her mother – long separated from her father – is still searching for the killer; and her would-be boyfriend Tom also never got over her murder. He is a policeman, heading up a unit specializing in such crimes. The book traces sudden new developments in the case, and how the three of them react to this. Dani’s mother is the woman above, and you don’t have to be a genius to work out what she wants the knife for.
The end of the book brings an absolute torrent of competing revelations as people make confessions that aren’t quite what they seem, or make unlikely connections, or agree to very bizarre actions. I felt that someone should tell Viner to calm down a bit, stop making it quite such a kaleidoscope – he doesn’t need all those extra curlicues, and nor did he need the byzantine time scheme – jumping around all over the place from 1984 to 1989 to 2010 and then back again. It was confusing, annoying and completely unnecessary. But it was a good, riveting read – and see Col’s review for a more enthusiastic take on it.
It seems the book is going to be the first of a series. In some ways it’s hard to see where Viner will go from here, but it’ll be interesting to find out.
The picture is the incomparable Kate Moss, who could never be called Hilary Clifton-Hastings. (This imaginary character brings some light relief to a book which is otherwise very free of humour.)