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Gowers, Rebecca - 'The Twisted Heart'
Paperback: 288 pages (Mar. 2010) Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd ISBN: 1847671551

Kit is a PhD student, studying English literature at Oxford. She shares a flat with another student, a physicist called Michaela, and at the start of the book, she meets Joe at a dance club. Kit is tall, and Joe asked her to do the 'boys' part in the class, which Kit agrees to, but then finds upsetting. Yet, she goes back to Joe's flat anyway, for a different sort of dancing, and they start to become very good friends. Joe is a lecturer in maths at the University and his peculiarity is his apparent responsibility for his wayward brother Humpty. Most of the book focuses on Kit, who sounds as though she is mildly autistic, her developing relationship with Joe, and a sort of mystery about Humpty, who seems to get into fights a great deal, and is a worry to Joe.

The main link to crime in this novel, is that Kit is studying the novels of Charles Dickens, and she wants to know if Dickens based the murder of Nancy in Oliver Twist on the reported murder of Eliza Grimwood, a prostitute who was murdered and stabbed in London in 1938, or whether the murderer read about this murder in the book, and then copied it in real life. This turns out to be pretty straightforward to solve, with a bit of help from Joe.

Overall, I had the impression that this novel is written by an English student from Oxford, capitalising on a bit of local knowledge. It's a short book, quick to read, and entertaining in its way, but lacked depth and in my opinion was more of a love story than a crime novel.

Michelle Peckham, England
December 2010

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 12/12/2010 15:59