Nick Quantrill’s debut novel is an intriguing piece of crime fiction. One of its strongest aspects is the sense of setting in the English port city of Hull. The portrayal of his native city is wholly convincing and why not when it allows Quantrill to explore the devastated fishing industry, corruption in the Real Estate business (now where have I heard that before?) and the two Rugby League sides that divide Humberside on rugby rather than football club lines.
In an inspired move by the author, protagonist and Private Investigator Joe Geraghty is an ex-Rugby League player – if I remember correctly, a former protégé with the red half of the city, otherwise known as Hull Kingston Rovers. I hope I’ve got that right or I might find myself on the receiving end of a high tackle!
It may be set in a different country, but rather like my favourite contemporary drama The Wire, this novel is not about honest cops saving law-abiding citizens from nasty criminals. Shades of grey, apt for an industrial city, pervade the novel.
If it falls a little short of a five star rating it is only because I am not a huge fan of crime fiction. That says more about my tastes than any flaw with the novel itself. Forgive me if I over-simplify the genre, and I may have a blinkered view of crime fiction due to limited familiarity and exposure to the genre, but for me finding out who committed a murder and tying up all the loose ends are not one of my main requirements from a novel. In other words, there has to be a lot more to it than “a beginning, a middle and an end” as the cliché goes.
And there is. The plot is undoubtedly well planned and executed but Broken Dreams succeeds for other reasons too: Quantrill’s clean, clipped prose and short chapters convey a sense of simplicity that is far from easy to achieve. He steers well clear of the temptation to labour a story to the point of exhaustion in order to fulfil an overstretched page/word count – something I think is far too common today. Above all, I like the way he weaves the city into his story, painting a clear picture of a place I have never been.
Hell, he might even help convert doubters like me to this crime fiction business. And there isn’t long to wait – his next novel featuring PI Geraghty, The Late Greats, is due out in the spring also from Caffeine Nights Publishing.