Campbell, Colin - 'Through the Ruins of Midnight'
A fast-paced, strong police-procedural in the tradition of Ed McBain or Peter Turnbull, Colin Campbell's first novel THROUGH THE RUINS OF MIDNIGHT slips down a treat. The plot framework is simple, covering the events of one shift for Mick Habergham and his partner Andy as they deal with a succession of calls throughout the night. The pace never lets up as the two coppers have to attend family feuds fuelled by drink; a tragic, elderly husband and wife; a suicidal knife-wielding vagrant threatening a receptionist; an unfaithful wife about to be caught in the act by her husband; and so on. The main business of the night is drunkenness, though - whether a massive fight outside a pub fuelled by an after-hours drinking session, or a quiet family get-together in front of the TV arousing jealous rages and spiralling out of control, this is a world of the unintelligent, the failed and those lacking impulse-control.
Yet although most of the incidents are minor, the book is never boring. The author writes with passion and commitment, with an emotional understanding of his (mainly inarticulate) male characters that is moving yet convincing, the main example being Mick, as he struggles to communicate not only to Andy but to himself his feelings about his sad wife Angie. As a serving policeman for 30 years, Colin Campbell writes from the position of someone steeped in the culture: he has no difficulty in convincing the reader that the hectic mosaic of events described over this long night could have really happened; and the disparate characters, although making only fleeting occurrences in many cases, have the same ring of authenticity.
The reader is aware from the start that this is Mick's last night on the force, so the tension builds as the night goes on. As Mick and Andy attend each incident, the reader is asking "could this be it?". This is a clever plot device that adds drama to otherwise relatively trivial occurrences such as complaints about a dog bite. As well as an incident-packed plot, the author treats the reader to little flashes of back-story for most of the perpetrators and victims with whom Mick has to deal. One has to pay close attention to keep everything straight, but it pays off in terms of emotional involvement, and is a nice contrast to the slow build of our eventual knowledge of the history of Angie, Mick's wife.
I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting, tense and authentic story. My only real complaint is that the editing seems hasty, leading to a degree of jerkiness and rawness in the narrative that probably was not intended.
Maxine Clarke, England
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