Tangled Web UK Review October 2000
Unholy Dying by
hbk out September 00
Published by HarperCollins
Robert Barnard is always worth reading and this new one is no exception.
Unholy Dying is set in the environs of Leeds, Barnard’s home territory, and in spite of his denials in his author’s note, the places described must be pretty close to reality. I doubt if the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds will happen to read this book, but he’ll not be best pleased if he does, notwithstanding Mr Barnard’s disclaimer.
The story concerns a parish priest from a Catholic church in Shipley, who is suspended after tittle-tattle from a neighbouring curtain-twitcher, about his befriending a young unmarried mother on a grotty council estate. A slime-ball local reporter overhears the matter being discussed by two local business-men on a train and pursues it avidly, seeing a scandal potentially saleable to the London tabloids. He gets himself bludgeoned to death one dark night and two detectives follow a trail of suburban nastiness and hypocrisy amongst the Catholic community of Shipley and district.
Robert Barnard has the gift of making the most ordinary folk players in a tense drama, with a genius for portraying characters in minute detail, warts and all – especially the warts. This book seems to give him an opportunity for having a good go at both Catholic autocracy and the Thatcherites – he used to work for the Fabian Society.
I always look forward to a new Robert Barnard novel, though this one is not one of his best. It starts well and goes fine for the first half, but then seems to run a little out of steam, with a somewhat disappointing ending – always the hardest part. Still, for a good read, don’t let me put you off – I usually disagree with what the reviewers tell me, anyway.
- Author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series set in Medieval Devon)