Weirdo

Cathi Unsworth. House of Anansi Press/Spiderline (HarperCollins Canada; Canadian dist.: PGW; U.S. dist.), $19.95 trade paper (407p) ISBN 978-1-77089-387-0
Sean Ward, forced by injuries to retire from the Metropolitan Police, resigns himself to the dull existence of a private investigator. The opportunity to investigate an old murder case comes as a pleasant surprise. A generation ago, 15-year-old Corrine Woodrow was convicted of a gruesome murder. Now, evidence suggests that there was a second person involved. The cold case takes Sean to Ernemouth, a resort town whose inhabitants were perfectly happy to scapegoat Corrine. Few have any interest in having an embarrassing old scandal awakened, but their sullen indifference to justice pales beside the machinations of a corrupt figure willing to commit murder to shape Ernemouth in his image. Unsworth, who has been called "Queen of Noir" in her native U.K., skillfully weaves together two narratives, Ward in 2003 and the unfortunate Corrine in the early 1980s. As Ward reconstructs what happened, Corrine—outcast and victim—wanders ever closer to the violent events the reader knows must come. Unsworth casts a stark light on the unjust treatment doled out to the odd and the transgressive, in particular to women trapped in a hostile, patriarchal world. Unpleasant without being exploitative, the novel is a worthy showcase for the author's undeniable skill. Agent: Caroline Montgomery, Rupert Crew Ltd. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/07/2013
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