Rhyming Rings

Written by David Gemmell

Review written by Michael Jecks


Rhyming Rings
Gollancz
RRP: £14.99
Released: May 18, 2017
HBK

Okay, I’m a crime writer. I’d heard of David Gemmell, but I never met him, and hadn’t read any of his books until this one. His name has always been familiar, but his genre was not one I’ve ever followed. However he was very successful author of fantasy novels, who sadly died far too young in 2006, having written some thirty books.

He didn’t encroach on crime and, on the basis of this book, it’s a great shame because he could plot, he could create brilliantly believable characters, and he could write clear, precise text that makes the reader want to carry on regardless. I know this to my cost, having lost a day’s writing.

RHYMING RINGS takes us into the life of Jeremy Miller, a young newspaper reporter in the latter days of the last century. This was evidently a comfortable environment for Gemmell: he had been a reporter before taking up writing novels full time, and it would seem that much of this story is loosely autobiographical. The personality of the leading protagonist, his appearance, his social skills (such as they were) seem to have been culled directly from the author himself, and it helps the book no end. Comfortable with the background and the first-person style of much of the narrative, Gemmell describes the world about him with a facility that many writers would long to be able to emulate.

The story starts with an introduction to Ethel. As he says, “That’s the problem when writing about Ethel. How to convey, despite her powers, the very ordinariness that made her talents so unique.” Because she was a woman in her sixties, who had endured widowhood, who was neat and tidy, who was addicted to soap operas on TV, and who happened to be a psychic. Which was useful, because there was soon to be a series of gruesome murders. Ideal for a young reporter keen to make his name. Except he can’t.

He is sent on various alternative stories. The woman he fancies is given the plum job of following the killings, and meanwhile Jeremy is given the task of finding heart-warming local stories, including a paraplegic teenager and a man with cancer … and Ethel.

Ethel does not want her story written up, but then, as the murders increase, she offers to help the police with their enquiries. Although the hard-bitten officers are dubious about her and her skills, they put her to the test, and soon she is able to give them hints and clues.

While the case proceeds, violence erupts on the estate in which Ethel lives. The police fear a riot, and the whole area is on tenterhooks.

This is a superbly well-written crime thriller. The writing is spare and lean, the plot well-crafted, the characters all plausible. Reading it, you feel you could be there, in West London in the 1990s. Perhaps that is because the landscape is so familiar to me, perhaps it’s the style. I don’t know, but I do know that this is an excellent read and well worth the money.

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