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, Holding is a masterful debut. 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.
I was intrigued that Graham Norton had written a novel and couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately for me the first half of the book I could not get into this novel. This is described as darkly comic and I could hear Graham's voice in my head, just like on the radio, narrating, and the two just didn't go together. I also did not at first find the characters loveable as described at all.
When I got to Part 2 of the book something just clicked - I began to enjoy the book more and certainly by the last third I was so intrigued to find out what had happened all those years ago and whose body had been found. Even the characters took on a different level and I warmed to the Garda PJ and his housekeeper Mrs Meany and also to Brid.
There is some very insightful writing here and at times it reminded me a little of a Maeve Binchy novel -where everyone knows everyone and has an opinion on them, but they all rally round for each other. The plot is a clever one and Graham has also used his knowledge of Ireland to give an authentic feel to the characters.
I did enjoy the book in the end - once I had a neutral voice in my head with no wicked nuances of Graham. I would be interested to read his next novel - I'm sure there will be one.
I'm giving this book 4 out of 5 stars. My thanks go to Netgalley for a copy of the book to review.