Friday, 10 January 2014

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by PD Viner

published 2013




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.)

8 comments:

  1. Hmm, glad you enjoyed it, for the most part. Yes there was a helluva a lot going on at the end, which I kind of got swept up in and enjoyed, but can also see your POV. (I've just finished a book last night, which was enjoyable overall, but which to me, seemed a bit too busy in the last third.)

    Likewise, I'm interested in seeing what he does next, I would hazard he will need to expand his range of characters, as I can't see how any except one, can figure next time out.
    Sorry that it wasn't quite the barn-stormer I was hoping you would find it.

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    1. I did enjoy it, and it certainly kept me reading, I wouldn't have stopped, and I like a book that surprises me, as this one did. I think I would have given it a 4 compared to your 5! And I will definitely be looking at the next one.

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  2. Moira - Thanks very much for your take on this. I must admit I've been wavering on whether to read this or not, although I'm mostly of a 'yet' mentality. Looks like I'll want to prepare myself for quite a ride...Oh, and that is a great picture of Kate Moss. Of course, I've never seen her look bad in one...

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    1. I love Kate Moss, I could look at her all day. The book certainly kept my interest throughout, it lived up to its job as a thriller! Not the best ever, but well worth a read I think.

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  3. This book is pretty expensive here and I am avoiding buying books for awhile anyway. So I will put this one on a list for future reference. It would be interesting to see how it develops into a series.

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    1. As you've got plenty in hand, it's probably a good idea to wait till it comes down in price. And Col and I will keep you informed when the next book comes out...

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  4. Moira: I wonder if Kate Moss ever has a moment in her life when she is not conscious of how she looks. There seems to be a camera around her for every moment she is out of her home.

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    1. I know - extraordinary woman, extraordinary life. But she's so unusual in that she never talks about, doesn't try to be an actress or a writer, just gets on with her life.... I do think she is amazingly beautiful.

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