Peace, David - '1977'
This second part of the Red Riding Quartet is a grim, brutal and violent book brimming with racism, sexism and corruption. But don't let that put you off!
Two narrative voices run though the book, policeman Bob Fraser and burnt-out journalist Jack Whitehead. Both appeared in minor roles in the previous volume of the series but here they take centre stage. Both are desperate, tortured men, both in love with Chapeltown prostitutes, if love is the right word here under the glare of the Leeds street-lights at a time when the Yorkshire Ripper haunts those very streets. It's 1977 and neither man has really moved on from 1974 and the death of Eddie Dunsford. Neither man is a likeable character, both have their demons and it becomes increasingly difficult to unpick the threads of truth from the fabric of self-deceit and fantasy, desire and self-loathing that fills the minds of both men.
Fraser is part of the team hunting the Ripper, but everywhere he turns, more questions are raised, more police corruption uncovered. The Yorkshire force is rotten to the core and Fraser seems to be the only half-decent copper among them. Meanwhile Whitehead is losing his grip on reality as he is haunted by the death of his ex-wife.
This is an extraordinary and masterly piece of work. Structurally it works better than 1974, with better pacing and a tad more clarity, though of course with two such unreliable narrators, you can never be totally sure what's really going on.
It's a bleak world, where men are men, and women are just objects to be used and discarded. Hope and redemption have no place here. Two books in and this series is living up to all expectations.
Read another review of NINETEEN SEVENTY SEVEN.
Pat Austin, England