Holding is the fictional début by Irish chat show king, radio presenter and comedian Graham Norton. Set in the sleepy Irish village of Duneen, it tells the story of a small community with big secrets.
Not much happens in Duneen. That is, until human bones are discovered on a building site. The shocking discovery rocks the village, and secrets of the past, that many of the inhabitants thought were well buried, are slowly unearthed.
For overweight and lonely Sergeant Patrick James ‘PJ’ Collins, there is finally a crime to solve. His time is usually spent organising parking during the church fête, but now with a murder investigation on his hands, he at last feels he has a purpose.
PJ is one of half a dozen characters who share the story spotlight. These include the mysterious Ross sisters – three spinsters who live together in their childhood home, haunted by the suicide of their father, and housewife Brid Riordan, who relies on alcohol to numb the pain of a mundane and unhappy life. At times its seems like there are too many characters and back stories to keep up with, however, Norton has created well-rounded, relatable characters, who despite their obvious flaws, you can’t help but have sympathy with.
“She felt a strange pressure building behind her face. No. She would not cry. She might have carried the pain for twenty-three years, but she would not release it now. Her face contorted into a thin smile.”
As happens in a small community, rumours soon start swirling and many believe that the body is that of Tommy Burke, a local lad who disappeared 20 years earlier. Sergeant PJ has his work cut out, as suddenly everyone has something to hide.
Holding is a tale of love, loss, mystery and regret. Norton is a great storyteller. Known on television and radio for his cheeky, sarcastic humour, you are almost waiting for the gag to come, however, his writing takes a gentler tone. While the murder case drives the story forward, solving it is secondary to the moving journeys each of the main characters go on. There are touches of dark humour and Irish wit, but overall this is an engaging novel cleverly exploring human emotion and reaction.
An enjoyable début by Mr Norton.
★ ★ ★ ★
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, October 2016