Pat Black (2019) The Family

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I read this book when it was first published. I’ve read some of Pat Black’s short stories. Some of them are outstanding. A novel is just a bigger story. It’s no great surprise that Black knows what he’s doing. The Family is an interesting title. A bit bland, unless you’re Charles Manson and his Family. And this is Charles Manson territory.  There are evil people out there and more worryingly within us. We’ve got to channel them.

Here’s a little message to the narrator, Rebecca (Becky) Morgan from the guy with size fourteen, padded, boots.

I killed your mother. I killed your father. I killed your sister. I killed your baby brother. And it was the best day of my life.

Becky Morgan is in a word, ballsy. She knows the killer is out there. And she follows cold cases of families that have disappeared and families that have been, ritualistically, slaughtered, like her family was in the South of France in the idyllic Grange aux la Croix valley. She was the only one of her family to escape, but she’s not undamaged. She also does some damage, beating men up that piss her off. It only becomes a problem when she reaches the bottom of the glass.

Morgan is a journalist. It’s one of those coveted jobs us non-writers imagine would be full of fun, like those journalists in The Washington Post, writing witty stories about the moron’s moron and harking back to days when there was a scandal about the then President –allegedly – having an affair with a woman called of all things, Jennifer Flowers. Making up puns about de-flowering, but, you get the drift and I’ve lost the plot.

Journalism here is like the White House with the KKK on speed-dial. Anybody that’s any good has already left. Morgan takes a sabbatical from journalism to hunt the serial killer that she knows is out there.  It’s the twentieth anniversary of her families slaughter and its pay-back time.

Becky sums it up in this way.

Asking me if I thought about revenge is a bit like asking Godzilla if he ever thinks about Tokyo.

If I was being political and, choosing sides, if there was anything worse than the moron’s moron, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his kinship network then it is the bag carrier, Nigel Farage.  Here he pops up in Brussels as a loosely sketched bloke called Edwin Galbraith (no dark relation to the J K Galbraith, who penned the post-war settlement).

Brussels is his home and the source of his extremely comfortable lifestyle for a decade – a sublime irony.

When does a concentration of camps, such as Butlin’s (Skegness being my mate’s favourite) become tagged as concentration camps they can turn their backs on such as those of the far-right institutions of bonhomie in Brussels?  Becky goes undercover and offers her service to our Edwin. She’s young and pretty and has the right colour of skin. Least important of all she has public relations skills, so of course Galbraith wants her in, in the same way that Clinton wanted Flowers in.

Drat! Galbraith fingered her.

Her wires thrumming with adrenalin, Becky’s natural inclination was to bite back.

I’d suggest re-writing here.  Mixed metaphors make Galbraith a dull boy. If there was any justice in this world (or the next) he’d be murdered by a serial killer. But I’m not allowed to say that or call him a paedophile, or serial killer. He’s just a normal bloke. Very blockey.

Becky finds whatever way she turns her friends keep dying. Other folk might be a trifle paranoid about his development, but that’s part of her bloody past. She keeps ploughing forward through the bodies.

The serial killer shape shifts and seems to know all of her next moves. He’s one step ahead and one step behind her. No wonder she likes to drink. I like to drink too and I’ve not even got a stalker.

The denouement when it hits her, is a bit too reddy for me. Raw meet. Read on. This really is a page turner.

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