Friday, July 11, 2014
Review of Long Way Home by Eva Dolan (Vintage, 2014)
Long Way Home is the antithesis of the classic English cozy. Rather than the amateur detective solving a dastardly crime in some middle/upper-class idyll, Dolan presents the rotten underbelly of modern Britain -- everyday racism, anti-social behaviour, poverty, and exploitation -- investigated by a police force under resource constraints and media pressure, who are mistrusted and little respected. The story is set in Peterborough, a place where there is an uneasy relationship between locals and new immigrants, many of whom are indentured to gang bosses, are poorly treated, and are kept in line with the threat of violence. The tale itself focuses on the investigation into the torching of a shed in which an immigrant slept by Detectives Zigic and Ferreira. The former is a second generation immigrant who worries he’s not spending enough time with his wife and two boys, the latter a feisty, headstrong young woman with a chip on her shoulder, who moved to Britain when she was seven. The real strength of the book is the plot, which is a cleverly worked police procedural with a couple of nice twists and turns, and the contextualisation and gritty social realism with respect to working class neighbourhoods and the treatment of some immigrants to Britain. There’s are fine lines between hectoring, moralising tale and searing, gritty social realism, and between lived lives and criminal/immigrant stereotypes and caricatures. Dolan understands the difference, managing to find the right balances and letting the injustice and morals of the tale speak for themselves. Overall, a gritty, thoughtful read with a compelling plot.