“Another Place:” or, Liverpool Revealed, in Waterloo Sunset by Martin Edwards

May 4, 2008 at 1:34 am (Anglophilia, Book review, books, Mystery fiction, Uncategorized)

How endlessly tiring it must be for those who know and love Liverpool, a vibrant city rich in history (some of it very dark), that so many of the world’s people know only one thing about it…

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

(Here’s a post from Martin Edwards’s blog on the newly opened Hard Day’s Night Hotel.)

****************************************************

Harry Devlin is a solicitor who lives and works in Liverpool. He’s in his office one morning, is going through his messages, when he comes upon the following:

“In Memory

Harry Devlin

Died suddenly,

Liverpool

Midsummer’s Eve

Few events can be as unnerving as reading your own obituary. And Harry is appropriately unnerved. Meanwhile, young women in the area are being murdered. The perpetrator is inflicting the same telltale injury on each of his victims. Is there a serial killer on the loose? Harry has a penchant for running his own investigations, and when Kay, a young woman he knows and likes, is found dead, he has all the motive he needs to look into the matter, especially since the official police inquiry seems to be going nowhere fast.

Waterloo Sunset is the eighth novel featuring Harry Devlin. I don’t think that the first seven books in this series have been “officially” published here. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to ascertain this information, what with small presses – and smaller presses – flitting about. But I don’t want for a minute to put these businesses down. Poisoned Pen Press, which has many fine titles on its list, is the publisher of Waterloo Sunset and of the excellent Lake District mysteries featuring Daniel Kind and Hannah Scarlett.

It can be disadvantageous to the reader to jump into a series in the middle, but I felt that I got to know Harry Devlin rather quickly. As he enters his middle years, Harry at first seems sadder and wiser, having suffered some painful personal losses. But he is not by nature a passive person, and once roused to righteous anger, as he is when he learns of Kay’s murder, he won’t rest until he has answers. There are times when he resembles the proverbial bull in a china shop, and I shook my head and thought, Harry, Harry, what a foolish/dangerous/outrageous thing to do! But I ended by admiring the guy and liking him, too.

Martin Edwards paints a crowded canvas here, and I did have some trouble at first keeping track of all the characters. The process became easier, though, once the narrative gained momentum. And at the same time that Edwards is ratcheting up the tension, the city of Liverpool itself is coming into increasingly clear focus.

In accordance with an European Union initiative, Liverpool has been designated a European Capital of Culture for 2008. (For more information about Culture Capitals, see Wikipedia.) This is basically a chance for Liverpool to strut its stuff. It also provides Martin Edwards with an opportunity to salt his novel with tongue-in-cheek allusions to Liverpool’s new status. There’s a janitorial service called Culture City Cleaners. And there’s Cultural Companions, employers of attractive young women on the lookout for easy money. They get entangled with men looking for more than cultivated conversation. From these encounters, trouble flows in copious streams…

Cue: “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” by Gerry and the Pacemakers

(I admit it – I’m nostalgic for sweetly unpretentious songs like this one.)

Harry’s inquiries take him to Crosby beach, where he encounters a man who must have witnessed a murder. Why? Because he is standing close to where it happened. But he will never divulge his secrets, because he cannot. He is made of iron, and he is not alone: “‘Another Place,’ where where one hundred iron men stared out at sand, sea and sky.”

The sculptor is Antony Gormley, of “Angel of the North’ fame.

We had the pleasure of meeting Martin Edwards on our Smithsonian Mystery Lovers’ Tour in September. He is a warm, engaging, and witty speaker. These qualities inform his writing as well. I enjoyed the Liverpool lore; also, Edwards’s allusions to specific songs serve as cultural markers and reminded me of the novels of Peter Robinson. (This would be about the highest compliment I could pay a writer of crime fiction!)

2 Comments

  1. “It’s Only Make Believe” (song by Glen Campbell) - Telling lies for a living « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Martin last year in Harrogate (Yorkshire, UK). I’ve read the three Lake District novels and Waterloo Sunset, the latest Harry Devlin, and enjoyed each of them greatly. (Martin also writes a terrific […]

  2. The year in Mystery: Favorites, Group One, Part One « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Sunset by Martin Edwards. I entitled my post on this highly entertaining novel ” ‘Another Place:’ or, Liverpool Revealed.” It was revealed to me, at any rate,  as a city well worth getting to know. Martin Edwards’s […]

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