Book Review: Turning Blue by Benjamin Myers

TURNING BLUE

Author: Benjamin Myers

Publisher: Moth Publishing

Release Date: August 2016

When a teenage girl goes missing on the Yorkshire Dales at Christmas, precocious, obsessive DS James Brindle from the police’s elite Cold Storage unit is dispatched to the frozen moorland community to investigate. The case, which involves the daughter of local businessman Ray Muncy, also piques the interest of local journalist Roddy Mace, who has returned home after burning out in London. As the missing girl’s trail goes cold, both men find themselves drawn to Steven Rutter, an apparently harmless loner who is harbouring a lifetime of dark secrets. Mace’s local knowledge is able to cast new light on the close-knit village and its inhabitants – many of whom are nursing their own foetid connections to the area’s sleazy underbelly.

The proliferation of rural British police procedurals may seem suffocating at times, but Turning Blue is an entirely different beast: it’s like a Peter Robinson novel as re-imagined by Dennis Cooper! From the come-stained horror-show of the Odeon X adult cinema, to the destitute Rutter farmyard, the sense of location is brought queasily to life throughout. Hellishly bleak background details are casually scattered throughout the book like chicken feed, and Brindle and Mace’s investigation unfolds in appropriately stomach-churning fashion.

If you enjoyed David Peace’s excellent Red Riding series then Turning Blue should jump right to the top of your reading list, as the two authors explore similarly bleak versions of the North, albeit decades apart. Another useful point of comparison is the work of Gordon Burn (Myers won the 2013 Gordon Burn prize for his novel Pig Iron). Indeed, his savage dissection of fictional Jimmy Savile-esque Saturday night light entertainer ‘Lovely Larry’ Lister recalls Burn at his darkest.

Grim, gripping and grotesque, Turning Blue is an outstanding book, and easily one of the best British crime novels that I have read in the last decade.

Review by Tom Leins

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