This is the debut novel from Des Burkinshaw, a TV producer / director and former Times journalist.
And his credentials show.
The writing is witty, never unnecessarily wordy and is therefore very Tight. Yes, with a capital ‘T’. Cracking, well-rounded characters (even the dead ones), really help the reader to invest in the plot, which is well-paced, and dark when it needs to be. This darkness is definitely not for children or teens and I would caution that, in this book at least, there are some adult themes that may be best avoided by younger readers – and even some adults; however, these are not dwelt upon, nor explicitly ‘shown’.
Like a ‘Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)’ for the new millennium (I don’t count the Reeves and Mortimer remake – sorry, guys), the interplay between the protagonist, Porter, and his robotic-angelic-apparition sidekick, The Gliss, is a lovely (and very natural) mix of banter, exasperation, surprise and genuine fondness – despite their differences. Indeed, Burkinshaw’s TV experience really shines here, as I could easily see this being made into a film – or a series, as the next book is due out later this year.
If you like murder mysteries, especially with a weird SF / otherworldly twist (the spirit robot is, I admit, the only reason for the book’s inclusion on this blog!), then I can’t recommend this highly enough.
I can’t wait for the next one.
If a ghost appeared from nowhere, rescued you from suicide and then ordered you to start solving crimes to help dead people, what would you do? When it happens to Porter Norton, he just wants to put his head in his hands and have nothing to do with it. But now he has to atone for the family curse that has seen all the men die at their own hands for five generations. The Gliss, the sarcastic spirit that rescues him, says he can now see and hear the Dead – if he’s close to their remains. Porter has to use his unwelcome gift to clear up past injustices. Or else. Forced to investigate the murder of a WW1 British Tommy executed for spying in 1917, he begins to suspect the case has links to his own family history. Along the way, Porter enlists the help of a bickering group of misfits, who struggle to stay involved – because only fools believe in the supernatural, don’t they? Full of pop culture references, banter and twists, the story takes us from present-day London and Flanders to scenes from World War 1. As Porter, The Gliss, and friends, get deeper into the explosive case, they discover their own lives and sanity are at stake. An evil from WW1 pursues them all.