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Monday 6 December 2021

‘The Quiet People’ by Paul Cleave

Published by Orenda Books,
25 November 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-913193-94-2

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that if anyone could carry out a perfect crime, a crime writer could. So do the police, and half the county, in Paul Cleave’s ingeniously plotted novel. Two crime writers, in fact: Cameron and Lisa Murdoch, crime writing duo and married couple of Christchurch, New Zealand. When their son Zach goes missing, they vehemently deny any involvement – but then they would, wouldn’t they?

Evidence soon piles up against them, and a social media campaign by freelance journalist Dallas Lockwood stirs public feeling to the extent that Lisa ends up in intensive care with a massive head injury. But are they really guilty? Detective Inspector Ben Thompson is determined to prove that they are; his colleague Rebecca Kent has reservations. And Cameron Murdoch decides to take the law into his own hands.

Both Cameron and Kent are complex characters, the kind it’s easy to imagine having lives beyond the page. The supporting players are somewhat less multi-layered but have enough depth to bring a sense of life to the story. Dallas Lockwood is the kind of slimy, dirt-digging reporter celebrities must dread. Ben Thompson represents policing at its worst, in contrast to Kent’s thoughtful, reasoned approach. And I especially liked Ellen Barkley, in great pain and dying of cancer but still willing to talk sense to a vengeful Cameron.

Christchurch is Paul Cleave’s home ground, and though he paints a rather darker picture of it than exists in real life, he paints it with care and in enough detail, both the city in all its aspects and the surrounding countryside, to provide the kind of background that makes a useful contribution to the unfolding narrative.

The story veers from police investigation to desperate father and back again in a roller-coaster ride as bodies are discovered and one revelation after another shifts the perspective in almost dizzying fashion. It’s the kind of novel that challenges you to put it down; just one more chapter, you’ll promise yourself, and because they’re short and the cliff-hangers are compelling, you’ll be tempted to another and another until suddenly it’s two in the morning.

So, is Zach dead or alive? And are the Murdochs monsters who were responsible for their son’s disappearance – or are they just pitiable parents who simply want the police to stop wasting time? Once you start reading, you won’t want to stop until you know.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Paul Cleave was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1974, and for as long as he can remember has always wanted to be a writer. At nineteen, Paul began work on his first few novels which will never be allowed out of the bottom drawer. At twenty-four he began work on The Killing Hour and The Cleaner. A year later he left his job of seven years to write full time. Without any income, he was forced to make a decision - get another job or sell his house. He sold his house and continued to write. In 2006 The Cleaner was released, and introduced Joe, a serial killer who works as a janitor at the Christchurch Police Department, to the world. It became an international bestseller in 2007.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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