CHATTO & WINDUS £11.99 (284pp) £10.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

The Killing Jar By Nicola Monaghan

The drugs still don't work

About a decade ago, a broadsheet printed a gritty photo of the local shops in my working-class area of Nottingham under the headline "Crack City". I thought the hacks had overplayed the dealing and odd turf-war shooting. Nicola Monaghan's startling and potent début novel confirms that they picked the wrong neighbourhood. Set a mile or two away from where I lived, The Killing Jar is a vibrant, shocking blast of life from Broxtowe, an altogether seedier estate on the western edge of Nottingham, where Monaghan grew up.

Kerrie Anne Hill first appears as a five-year-old, fascinated by the insect collection of Mrs Ivanovich, a widowed and dying entomologist. She uses the cyanide from her insect-killing jar to lace pans of water that she had discreetly asked the child to lug into her room, thereby becoming the first of several deaths in which Kerrie Anne is unwittingly involved. Barely five years later, she is selling wraps in the playground of her junior school for Frank, one of a succession of "uncles" who have moved in and out of her mother's bed. She and Mark Scotland, the teenage son of Frank's jailbird crony, crawl through terraced attics to get guns and drugs out of the house where armed police have Frank holed up.

One of Monaghan's skills is allowing the penny to drop in Kerrie Anne's artless narration with a convincing time-lapse for denial. Frank is obviously bad trouble, but Mark charmingly apologises for spelling out that he's also a pimp, and her mother is on the game (again). By early teens, she is dealing a full portfolio in partnership with Mark.

It's tempting to see Kerrie Anne as a rave-culture update on Arthur Seaton, Alan Sillitoe's restless, anti-authoritarian sexual force in his groundbreaking 1958 novel of working class Nottingham youth, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Monaghan similarly uses the strong but fluent accent to flavour her pacey narrative, but the threats, deals and joyrides are closer to Welsh's Trainspotting in their exultant, drug-fuelled energy.

Monaghan treads a careful line between the horrors of junk and the relative highs of drug use. Her convincing characters swing unpredictably between terrifying and tender, and the often violent encounters usually have a bleakly funny edge.

The entire Broxtowe Estate acts as a chemical-filled killing jar in this powerful and complex novel, with Kerrie Anne the colourful specimen desperately clawing for an escape.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam