Page 45 Review by Stephen
Now with a Page 45 Exclusive, Signed 21st Birthday Bookplate!
"... Yes, people are, aren't they?"
From the creator of ADAMTINE which will send shivers down your spine comes curious crime fiction as sly as it is dry. Welcome to the rain-soaked world of Fernández Britten, a man whose shoulders sag under the weight of it.
"As it did every morning with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose."
He is not an optimist.
"Ten years ago I began a private investigation agency with the glorious aim of serving humanity and righting wrongs. In all these years the only wrongs righted have been on my tax returns.
"The people who burst righteously through my door are either jealous lovers seeking justification for their jealousy, or vengeful lovers seeking dirt on jealous lovers. Most of them already knew what they paid me to tell them, and those that didn't would have worked it out on their own. None of them liked what I had to say.
"I had made something of a name for myself in the field. That name was 'The Heartbreaker'.
"My partner in the agency, Stewart Brülightly, suggested we be more discriminating in the work we accept. No more lovers, either jealous or vengeful. Nowadays I don't get out of bed for less than a murder. I don't get out of bed much."
His partner, by the way, is a recalcitrant tea bag whom Britten carries around in his top pocket just in case he can shed light on the proceedings. It's not the only thing he sheds.
"Listen, Fern... when you jumped into that ditch... I think I... uh... Look, I'm sorry. I infused in your waistcoat."
This is as deft as deft can be. On almost every page Hannah Berry takes sentences out to play, toying with their structure to deliver droll declarations as dismal as the weather. For the rain it poureth down, and whether it's a cityscape from above, the sodden clots on the furrowed fields Britten finds himself traipsing across, or the overgrown undergrowth surrounding a potential stake-out, Hannah Berry has mastered her nation's default weather-setting. She's British. It's wet.
She's also thought long and hard about portraying her protagonists as well: Britten, for example, is one huge dollop of a nose with eye-bags so sunken-grey they could be dark holes in the porcelain mask of his face. He is lived-in, but in spite of his reputation for being The Heartbreaker which he will confirm once again here, he may just be able to make one last difference in a case that is so cleverly crafted I had to read it twice.
I failed to unravel its weave before the final revelation for there are so many other conclusions to jump to, but nothing here is extraneous and everything is detectable if you just look hard enough.
"If you're six feet underground, a little more digging makes no difference."
Don't you believe it.