Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: Maureen Carter 'Blood Money'

Since first acquiring her works back in 2007, I've been galloping through Maureen Carter's Bev Morriss novels with furious delight.

(see links for reviews of Working Girls with an aside to the second novel Dead Old, plus the review for Baby Love, Hard Time and Bad Press.)

This year I was delighted to find another Bev Morriss book available. Where once Morriss was merely brittle and acerbic, she's now frequently out of control, spiting herself more than anyone who tries to reach her. She's finding it increasingly impossible to retrieve her humour, a sense of self or her once-famed intuitive insight into human behaviour. I don't think it's a surprise to find she has no Frankie to offer ballast and she's scarcely connected to her once vital family. The isolation has seen her cut off from those she cares about, though even she longs for something, some connection, some reinvigoration of the desire - even love and affection - she once felt. She can see all the signs of destruction but she just can't quite manage to stop her acid tongue and semi-functional lifestyle forcing people away from her either. Indeed, it is this carelessness that creates a sub-plot to the novel whose threat looms into the final pages once the main narrative has passed.

As with her previous works, Carter's spare prose captures locations, temperaments, character and manners with elegant ease. Though it's a trait of her narratives to find that nothing is quite as it seems in terms of victims, Carter always manages to keep an extra twist up her sleeve until late in the day. She cunningly lets you in on things that the characters do not yet know but always holds sufficient information back to throw you a late curve-ball.

In the earliest books, the appropriation of some of Carter's own passions and wit for Morriss were fairly clear cut - and certainly the long-term passion for Mr J Depp remains. But it is telling that he, like most of the other anchors of Morriss's life, is mentioned only in passing in Blood Money. The divergence has been taking place for a long time, but as a long-term reader you hope that the dark places to which Morriss descends, those places of violence and destruction that seem to pull in those around her, reflect only Carter's talent for insightful writing and that a brighter light shines on her own experience of Birmingham life (thankfully I'm pretty damn sure it does!).

Overall a thrilling read. Started it on returning from Lowdham and it was neatly devoured before the day was out. As ever, recommended reading.

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