What is the ‘this’?

The first time I was aware of this was when I was coming to the end of ‘Cold Mountain’ by Charles Frazier. The book is extraordinary; set during the American Civil War, it’s the story of a wounded soldier who walks out of the hospital where he is being treated and heads back across the country to Cold Mountain, where the woman he loves is struggling against privation to work the family farm with only a female servant to help her. The narrative follows their two struggles, him undertaking the mammoth trek and all the terrible and frightening  things which happen to him, and she struggling just to survive. I was absolutely gripped, it’s not a cliché to say it’s a tour de force, and I was completely engaged, marvelling at the writing. So what is the ‘this‘ to which I referred?

Well, before I explain, I will mention another excellent book, very different, part of a series of contemporary police procedurals set in Portsmouth and written by Graham Hurley. The main character is a detective, Joe Faraday, and we follow his life as well as the crimes he investigates, and there is an on-going storyline about the local crime-boss and various of his gang. The stories are well written, the complex mysteries intriguing but believable, the characters realistic – sometimes frustratingly so, the locale – Portsmouth described vividly, and the conclusions are not always what you expect – and in fact, the penultimate in the series was completely unexpected (although later thinking about it I realised there were plenty of signals.)

Now, last night in fact, I just finished reading another book, another crime/mystery, but this was by Mick Herron – Nobody Walks. The main character, Tom Bettany returns to London from a dead-end job working in an abattoir, because of the accidental death of his son – or maybe it’s not accidental. In a previous life Bettany was involved in espionage, and he uses his skills and contacts to find out the truth about the young man’s death. I was immediately struck by the excellence of the writing, and in fact I made a comment on it on a social media page.  The plot became increasingly complex, and there was some rather nasty and brutal scenes – definitely not for the squeamish, and I hurried through those parts.

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read these books and think you might want to, do not read what I am going to say next!

So what do these books have in common which has prompted me to write this? They are all gripping, they all have believable, engaging characters, they all bring the reader right into the scene and keep them reading maybe late into the night… I liked them all, enjoyed them all up to a point, but they delivered one huge massive big unexpected shocking  disappointment, they all left me feeling annoyed and frustrated… In each book the main character who I’d lived with for 336 pages of Cold Mountain, eleven novels from Graham Hurley, and 278 pages from Mick Herron, was killed or died. I know characters in books die, sometimes favourite characters, but I felt really cheated that the author killed them at the end when I’d been through so much with them. I’m disappointed if a series ends, but I understand a writer might want to move on to something else and feel that s/he and the characters have run out of steam. I don’t mean there should always be a happy ending, I don’t mean there should always be closure – an open ending may be frustrating but I’m ok with that. But to actually have the main character who the reader has lived,, breathed, suffered and struggled with, right at the end is just brutal. I hate to think that the excellent writer might be fed up with the character and wants to end any chance of having to write about them again by killing them.

Will I read other books by Frazier, Hurley and Herron? I may very well do, but I’ll be getting anxious as the finale approaches!


  1. MI6

    Love Mick Herron’s Slow Horses and Jackson Lamb? Interested in real spies like Kim Philby, John le Carré, Alan Pemberton or Bill Fairclough and how they got on with the SAS? Then read Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files espionage series about the real scoundrels in MI6 aka Pemberton’s People. See a brief and intriguing News Article dated 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website and get ready to call your local film producer!

    Liked by 1 person

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