Cathi Unsworth - Weirdo (4 stars)

Cathi Unsworth - Weirdo

'First lady of noir fiction' cracks out Norfolk-set thriller that investigates teen-on-teen murder twenty years after the event

(Serpent’s Tail)

David Peace calls Cathi Unsworth, ‘the first lady of noir fiction’, and this fourth novel is a decent piece of evidence to back him up, at least in terms of the British writing scene. Set in rural Norfolk and split between events of 1983 and a cold case investigation 20 years later, Weirdo looks at the intense, hormonally-charged crime of teen-on-teen murder, exposing into the bargain the unhealthy and claustrophobic atmosphere of smalltown Britain and its attitude to outsiders.

Sean Ward is a private detective hired to look into an infamous case that saw teenager Corinne convicted for the brutal murder of a classmate, in a case that shocked the town of Ernemouth. He gradually uncovers a mess of corruption, cover-ups and criminality in a story that’s expertly plotted.

But Unsworth’s real strength is in her depiction of the teenage mindset and how the insularity of small communities can lead to emotional and physical extremes. Complex, compelling and wonderfully evoked, this is a fine slice of rural British noir writing.

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