Katherine Armstrong has worked in publishing for over six years. She is a crime fiction Editor for an independent publishing company in London.
When Alex Mercer enters his neighbour’s house with his eleven-year-old son, Max, to find their cat, he finds instead the neighbour dead in the bath. Was it suicide, or murder? As the police investigate, Alex’s comfortable middle-class life slowly starts to unravel as his relationship with his wife, Millicent, is put to the test and they both try to do what is best for Max.
Ben McPherson’s A Line Of Blood explores the fine line that binds families and relationships together and how one secret can unravel it all. Drawing parallels with We Need To Talk About Kevin, A Line Of Blood looks at the difficulty of being a parent, whilst also trying to stay true to the person you are. Both Alex and Millicent are flawed and selfish characters that epitomise the stereotyped view of North London’s media middle-classes – ironic cynicism and studied ennui. Having married so Millicent could stay in the country – she’s American – both fell in love and remained together through the birth of Max and the stillbirth of their daughter – an event that caused Millicent to have a breakdown. Alex is well drawn as the stoic and contained Englishman, who represses his real feelings and rarely expresses his anger. Their relationship is the crux of the novel: their human frailties causing unforeseen damage to their son and to each other as they come under suspicion from the police during the investigation into the neighbour’s death. Was Millicent having an affair with him? What potential trauma has finding the dead man caused Max?
A Line Of Blood keeps you reading because these are characters that you know, characters that you’ve met in real life. You don’t necessarily have to like them – indeed they’re everything you hope you aren’t at times – but they have similar aspirations to life and family that the average Guardian reader has. As in Rachel Cusk’s Arlington Park, McPherson is adept in creating a claustrophobic atmosphere of middle-class city life – the stifling conformity and the worry about being good parents, as well as being seen to be good parents, and the fear that maybe Philip Larkin had it right all along.