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Thursday 16 March 2023

‘You Can Run’ by Trevor Wood

Published by Quercus,
16 March 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-52941-482-0 (HB)

Trevor Wood’s Jimmy Mullen trilogy revealed two talents that many a crime writer would die – or more likely kill – for: finding a new kind of protagonist, and creating an ambience, a backdrop, that not only feels a hundred per cent real but also fits the unfolding story like a glove. In his new novel he has moved away from Newcastle and its homeless community, but those two talents are still very much in evidence.

So too is his ability to start out by making the reader wonder how on earth this protagonist is going to sort things out, then build suspense as they move towards a resolution; and his sure hand with the characters who appear along the way. In this case the protagonist is Ruby, a fifteen-year-old girl with very little knowledge of the world and its workings. Before the book is twenty pages old, she has seen her father kill a man, discovered her straightforward and uneventful life is neither of those things, and teamed up with the person she would have thought least likely to be useful to her in a difficult situation.  

The remote village home Ruby has shared with her father as long as she can remember is invaded by a military-looking stranger, who attacks her father. He shoots the stranger, and all he offers by way of explanation is ‘Run!’ But where should she run to? And where can she go for help when her father and the stranger are taken away by more strangers in an ambulance? And most important of all, what on earth is going on?

The story becomes more and more complicated as the answers to all these questions and more slowly emerge. Ruby’s first ally is Lucas, another teenager, and through him she meets up with other villagers who both she and her father have spent a lifetime avoiding. The claustrophobic village itself and its surroundings come to life as vividly as Danny, and Margaret, and Baldwin, who all have pasts almost as interesting as the one Ruby now finds herself in search of. None of them is a person you’d fancy meeting on a dark night, but they’re the good guys nonetheless; the bad ones keep appearing, and one way or another disappearing – best not to ask Danny too many awkward questions about that.

All the questions are answered eventually, of course, though the answers are not exactly what you might expect. I was left wondering how much pure imagination was, and how much Trevor Wood knows about what goes on behind the scenes in public life...

The Jimmy Mullen trilogy put a new slant on crime fiction and gave readers pause for thought into the bargain. You Can Run does it all over again, in spades. Trevor Wood is a force to be reckoned with in the genre.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for 25 years and considers himself an adopted Geordie, though he still can't speak the language. He's a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for 16 years joining, presciently, as a Writer. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. His first novel, The Man on the Street, which is set in his home city, was published by Quercus 19 March 2020, winning the The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2020.

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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