Featherstone, Ann - 'Walking in Pimlico'
Comedian, clog-dancer, comic vocalist, actor and all-round funny fellow Corney Sage didn't actually see the murder, or the murderer, and he didn't really know the dead girl that well. But he has found something that could identify the murderer, and the murderer knows him. So Corney Sage has to go on the run to the provinces, pursued by an unknown killer.
A slight initial worry is the note at the start pointing out that the book is the result of academic research. In my experience, this can often produce a book that reads like a research paper. Ann Featherstone avoids this by having all her research filtered through the voice of Corney Sage (comedian, clog dancer, etc), and he sounds exactly as if he's being interviewed by Henry Mayhew for one of his meet-the-lower-orders books.
Chapters not narrated by Corney Sage are taken from the journal of the killer. The killer is well-drawn, a serial killer somewhat akin to Tom Ripley (that is, holding on to an aspirational life style by murdering a series of people perceived as being a threat, not just slaughtering people for being blonde or something), but a lot more cheerful about doing people in and a lot more willing to take risks.
If there's a weakness in the book it's the way in which the killer's side of the story is presented. Did people who'd clawed their way out of London's underclass by imitating the behaviour of toffs slumming it down the East End normally write such formal journals? And, if so, would they go into such detail about all the people they'd killed? That said, it's vital to the structure of the book to have the chapters from the killer's viewpoint because much of the tension of the story comes from watching Corney walking towards disaster.
All in all, this is an excellent and well-written first novel and I'm looking forward to seeing what Ann Featherstone is going to follow it with.
Rik Shepherd, England
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