Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Necessary Deaths by David C Dawson

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought: When a young student journalist apparently tries to commit suicide, his mother enlists her neighbour, lawyer Dominic Delingpole, to investigate what lies behind his drugs overdose. Delingpole and his flamboyant partner, gardener and opera singer Jonathan McFadden, soon uncover a conspiracy that may extend to the furthest reaches of the British establishment.

I have been wracking my brains to decide where The Necessary Deaths fits in the spectrum of Crime Fiction. It is certainly not a gritty police procedural, in the style of Ian Rankin or Val McDiarmid. But nor is it the cosy crime of Agatha Raisin or Midsummer Murders. I've decided Dominic Delingpole may be the modern successor to Albert Campion, the detective created by Margery Allingham – the least known and most underrated crime queen from Britain’s golden age of detective fiction.

Like Campion, Delingpole is an accidental detective - neither a policeman, nor a PI nor a forensic professional. While Campion operated in pre- and post-War London, in a world of slightly down-at-heel aristocracy and East End eccentrics, Delingpole’s world is the 21st Century gay scene, as experienced by a middle class professional. Within that world, Dawson, like Allingham, delivers a plot that has its bizarre moments, but not one that stretches credulity to breaking point. And Delingpole’s sweet, sexy, romantic relationship with his Jonathan mirrors Campion’s surprisingly modern love affair with his beloved Amanda.

The Necessary Deaths is rooted in London, Brighton and the Chiltern Hills. Its American publisher has, for the most part, let it remain quintessentially British, but here and there they have found it necessary to ‘explain’ English terms. So mobiles become cell phones and the M25 is described as a freeway. It's mostly done with a light touch, but it can be a little disconcerting for a British reader.

It’s also firmly rooted in the gay community. Gay characters are a confident majority, not a marginalised minority. And male bodies, not female that are appreciatively checked out.

In defiance of the stereotype of the detective as a loner with a troubled past, The Necessary Deaths delivers a warm picture of friendship and love. There is real jeopardy here, but also an ending that is sure to make you smile.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Love: Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham, Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle, Human Rites by JJ Marsh.

Avoid If You Dislike: Crime that is gentle but not cosy; joyful celebration of love between men.

Perfect Accompaniment: Handel’s Rodelinda and a glass of prosecco

Genre: Crime, LGBTQ fiction

Available on Amazon

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