Written by Claire McGowan — This is the debut novel from a new name on the scene, Claire McGowan, whom we’ve interviewed on the site and recently featured in an article about where authors do their writing. She’s also a director of the Crime Writers’ Association, who has become a writer. And she doesn’t pull any punches with her first novel, tackling issues of class, racism, and how far you’d go for love.
Told from three different points of view, The Fall opens with Charlotte, the fiancée of a high-earning banker, planning her wedding due to take place a week from then. When she comes home from work to find her partner in a strange mood, what follows turns into a nightmare. Taking cocaine, they go to a nightclub, and the next morning Charlotte’s life is turned upside down when her future husband is arrested for murdering the owner of the club they were in.
Meanwhile, Keisha Collins is a working class mother, with a daughter taken away from her by social services, and an abusive boyfriend. She’s also struggling with her own identity as a mixed-race woman. She is at the club the night of the murder, and her life becomes entangled with Charlotte’s, as she struggles to come to terms with telling the truth about what happened that night.
Then there’s detective constable Hegarty, an ambitious man, with his eyes set firmly on promotion. By making the arrest in this case, his dream may come true. But his attraction to Charlotte begins to affect his professional life.
Though based on a crime and with a detective important to the story, the Fall has a lot in common with books in the literary genre – it is a genre, and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. Whilst all the crime thriller elements are recognisable, this book has character at its heart. Three very different characters are explored, with murder the link between the three. Each character has a different voice, and it’s testament to McGowan’s skill that each one is unique, with their own thoughts and feelings shining through. The structure of the book, with each viewpoint separated not by chapter, but by character name, is a brave way of presenting things, yet McGowan pulls it off without a hitch.
The best part of this book for me however, is the way in which Charlotte’s change as a person is unravelled. The reader is taken on her journey, and her fall from grace is written incredibly well. The character of DC Hegarty is also nicely handled, with not a cliché in sight, and you get a real sense of the man.
With The Fall, McGowan assuredly delivers an excellent first novel, displaying her skill and deftness for character, and an absorbing story. She tackles tough subjects in race and class with aplomb. With believable dialogue and characters, this is a writer to watch out for. She’s only going to get better and better.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars