by Stephen Tall on August 15, 2011
The Company of Fellows, Dan Holloway
How could I resist a crime novel set in Oxford, and cunningly marketed as the “Favourite Oxford Novel” following an online write-in campaign in a poll run by the city’s world famous Blackwell’s bookstore?
Given it’s a self-published e-book, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Dan Holloway’s generally cliche-free writing. The book centres on Tommy West — an OCD academic prodigy who suffered a thesis-induced nervous breakdown, and then made a fortune from interior design: as you do — and his attempts to find out the truth about the death of his doctoral supervisor, Charles Shaw.
Billed as ‘Imagine the Hannibal Lecter novels set in Oxford University’, for at least half the book I couldn’t see the connection. Then I reached the show-stopping shock-line, ‘Skull-fuck a trepanned baby’, and it started to make sense. But don’t judge the book by that line in isolation (positively or negatively).
There are places where an editor’s guiding hand would have improved it. For example, his university love, DCI Emily Haris, is leading the police investigation, but after cursory first interviews with suspects her only subsequent role is to mope after Tommy. And Becky, Charles Shaw’s daughter, maintains an unrealistically sassily sweary patois. But these are quibbles: the novel enjoyably breezes on through to its double-twist denouement.