Edge of Civilisation by Tony McHale – Review
By Sandra Callard
Crime fiction fans who enjoy exceptional characters and a good strong storyline must take a look at Edge of Civilisation by Tony McHale. This new novel offers a police story with a difference into the packed crime fiction market.
Those that remember the orchestrated sexual exploitation of young girls in Rochdale and the subsequent failure in persuing the crimes by the then-council and the police will find resonance with this book. These failures enabled the perpetrators to continue with their crimes long after initial suspicions were raised. It wasn’t until a new North West Chief Crown Prosecutor, Nazir Afzal, was appointed that things began to change, as he immediately began to initiate succesful prosecutions.
This book is not about that story, although it has well and truly inspired it. Here is a time when large numbers of young girls were indeed subjected to appalling abuse, and when a number of determined police made it their aim to wipe it out. One such man is Detective Inspector William Wordsworth from Bradford Police Station, a towering presence in the novel. He is black, big, intelligent and not afraid of saying it like it is. He is given the case of one missing young girl, which leads to drug barons, deaths and a case that DI Wordsworth will not give up for a ransom.
The characters are well lit and scanned. They all stand clearly in the reader’s imagination, whether they be good or evil, and there is a fine smattering of both. There is some fun, some good times and laughter, but there is also the heavy hand of tragedy and sadness, as is true in life itself.
The characterisations are drawn with a skilful hand, which is so important to the reader. I easily slipped into seeing DI Wordsworth and his wife, Wendy, in my head and on command, as well as their children, and also, at the other end of the characters, Ethan Cartwright and his despicable father Ethen Cartwright. All came to life for good or evil, at the steady hand of their author.
Crime stories can be bloody and this one is no exception, although nothing is dwelt on overlong, it balances itself out nicely as being steadily authoritative but not too graphic.
I did find one thing perplexing until I figured it out. Between the chapters there are reports of questions being aimed at D l Wordsworth from the Interview Room at Bradford City Centre Police Station at a date some time after this story has taken place. It seems that there was some sort of enquiry into the actions of DI Wordsworth after the case has finished. We are treated to the findings of the case late in the book which is very interesting and cumulative and is quite a different take on any previous crime book I have read.
In all, a good and satisfying read from the pen of an author I was not familiar with and who I will look out for in the future.
‘Edge of Civilisation’ by Tony McHale is published by Cranthorne Millner, £10.99