Paperback review: Hawthorn and Child, By Keith Ridgway

The odd couple turn to crime-fighting

Brandon Robshaw
Saturday 04 May 2013 17:15 BST
Keith Ridgway: A fusion of Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster
Keith Ridgway: A fusion of Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Hawthorn and Child are not father and son, but two police detectives. Child is cool, good-looking, black, married, the sensible, no-bullshit member of the duo; Hawthorn is neurotic, gay, and prey to bad dreams and fits of weeping.

The dialogue between the two men – set out with cool continental dashes, not fuddy-duddy old speech marks – is laconic, sardonic, sweary, and often very funny. Together they drive through London’s mean streets trying to solve mysterious crimes, which never get solved. A man is shot by a gunman firing from a vintage car, which no one else sees. A police informer is invited to a barbecue. A publisher, who may or not may be a psychopathic killer, is sent a strange manuscript about a gang of wolves who live in London. A religious nutter breaks into a house and holds a baby hostage. An innocent man (or is he?) is sent anonymous emails accusing him of being a paedophile ...

The blurb and reviews on the back suggest that this is a novel; but it isn’t. It’s a collection of short stories, each of which could successfully stand alone, and although there are some connections and continuities between them (like the gangster Mishazzo, who flits through these stories like a shadow) they are elusive, ambiguous, inconclusive. Some stories don’t even centre on Hawthorn and Child, but are told from the viewpoint of marginal characters who observe the detectives from afar. It’s tough, literary, violent, poetic, hardboiled, noirish, arty – like a fusion of Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster. Certainly the oddest detective fiction I’ve read this year.

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