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Monday, 28 September 2015

‘In the Name of Love’ by Patrick Smith

Published by Head of Zeus,
13 August 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-781853139, (HB)

Since crime fiction outsells every other genre, it’s hardly surprising that publishers go to some trouble to shoehorn as many books as possible into that category – but sometimes it’s an uneasy fit.

The jacket blurb of In the Name of Love refers to a murder, and a kind of second prologue (the first lasts two pages and works well) hints at a possible identity of the killer, but the murder itself doesn’t happen till later in the book.  

This is in fact a thoughtful, well-written and engrossing piece of literary fiction. Ninety percent of the narrative explores the nature of grief: how it leads to a sense of dislocation and isolates the sufferer, and how, gradually, he or she returns to the world and begins to rejoin it. I suspected a large element of autobiography in the storyline: middle-aged man, widowed suddenly and too soon, shuts himself away on a sparsely populated island in a country which is not his own, and slowly allows his frozen feelings to thaw.

There’s a lyrical quality to the descriptions of the passing seasons and the way the slow slide of winter into spring reflects the protagonist’s emotional state. His house, which was to be a summer retreat and wasn’t really designed for year-round living, falls victim to heavy snowfall, and the extensive repairs form another effective metaphor.

A variety of well-drawn characters cross the protagonist’s path: a careless, selfish friend from his previous life; a neighbour who is terminally ill but determined to squeeze the last drop out of his remaining months; a family of immigrants with a tragic and somewhat ambiguous past.

The main female character is a young woman whose flippant, almost brazen front doesn’t quite conceal inner hurt and insecurity: exactly the kind of victim crime writers love. And since her murder is flagged up in the cover blurb, it’s no spoiler to say what she turns out to be. Various  people have a motive for killing her – but nonetheless I was left feeling that the author had set out to write another kind of book altogether.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Patrick Smith was born in Ireland. He has spent most of his life as a translator in Sweden and, having published novels and short stories in Swedish, began his first novel in English at the age of seventy.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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