Monday, 1 December 2008

Ritual

I’ve met Mo Hayder briefly a number of times since reading her debut novel, Birdman, not long after it came out. She’s an international best-seller, and a famously attractive lady, but even more important, she’s always struck me as both charming and genuinely friendly. After bumping into her at Bouchercon, it struck me that it was high time I read another of her books, so I was pleased to have the chance while on holiday in Barcelona to devour her latest, Ritual.

For this book, Mo has brought back her original detective, Jack Caffery, but has transferred him to a new job in the West Country. Even more central to the story, though, is a new cop, Sergeant ‘Flea’ Marley, a specialist diver with (you guessed it!) a troubled past. The story opens with a compelling scene, in which Flea discovers a human hand in the harbour at Bristol and soon the complications are coming thick and fast.

Mo Hayder’s books are not for the faint-hearted. This is a gruesome story, with no shortage of mutilated body parts. And I’ve never been excessively keen on books which emphasise blood and gore. But I must say that I found this a compelling read, and there were passages of writing which struck me as quite outstanding. There is nothing about diving as a pastime that appeals to me, yet the descriptions of Flea’s underwater work are very well done, and kept even me hooked. The characterisation of Flea and Caffery is also expertly managed. Mo Hayder can write much better than most authors of chunky airport thrillers.

Finally, the inclusion at the end of the author’s own thoughts about the novel adds an extra layer of interest. It’s a device that I hope other publishers will imitate. Meanwhile, I’m sure this book will further enhance Mo Hayder’s considerable reputation.


2 comments:

Jane said...

I look forward to reading some of Mo's work 9when I've finished Dancing For The Hangman).
I do enjoy the extra notes form authors although I remember the confusion when Ian McEwan added some "clinical" notes in his novel, "Enduring Love" which prompted a whole Guardian article.

Tom Bale said...

I agree. Mo's a wonderful writer. Very gruesome at times, as you say, but the depth of characterisation and the quality of her prose puts her, in my opinion, amongst the very best British crime writers. I remember reading her first novel, and as with Mark Billingham's debut, feeling stunned (and also sick with envy) at the tremendously high quality of the writing.