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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

‘A Fine House in Trinity’ by Lesley Kelly

Published by Sandstone Press,
21 April 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-910124-95-6 (PB)

I do enjoy a good debut, and this is a very good debut, written with pace, assurance and humour.

Our Hero is Joe Staines, so named because his Polish grandfather fled to Scotland sixty years ago to escape marauding Germans, and stuck a pin in a map to choose a name which wouldn’t give away his family’s origins. The same grandfather would never have believed his grandson would get mixed up with a family of master criminals – but then the grandson (Our Hero in case you’re as confused as I was) didn’t really believe it either. The moral being, take care who you sit beside on your first day at school.

Nor did he believe the last scion of that criminal line would leave him all his worldly goods when other members of the underworld finally caught up with him: a lovely, if somewhat derelict, house, and a block of flats. There had to be a catch.

Well, of course there was. Poor Joe spends the entire book staying one step ahead of a man determined to claim this dubious inheritance, and getting punched, kicked, slashed and generally abused and rejected along the way.

The result is a fast moving romp involving an asthmatic alcoholic, a priest, a beautiful woman, a small boy with a water pistol and assorted villains, interleaved with forays into Joe’s past which explain how a boy from a respectable lower middle class home ended up in such parlous circumstances. The ending is a tad inconclusive, and left me feeling his trials were far from over, but perhaps that was as it should have been.

The narrative is peopled with lively characters, some nefarious, others less so, and set against the unlikely (from a criminal point of view, but who knows?) background of Leith, that most unassuming of Scottish towns best known for an oft-repeated line about its police intended to prove the speaker is or isn’t drunk. And of course that line gets a nod.

I couldn’t help warming to Joe Staines, even when he was breaking into an apparently deserted building, or nicking the collection money from the priest’s house. I didn’t really see how Lesley Kelly could turn this sparkling one-off into a series, but anything’s possible, and Joe is a protagonist it would be a pity to waste.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Lesley Kelly has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the past twenty years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She has won a number of writing competitions, including the Scotsman’s Short Story award in 2008.  She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and her two sons.

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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