Monthly Archive for May, 2015

A date with Helen Cadbury

Unalloyed joy this month to have York-based writer Helen Cadbury join us for a discussion of her first crime novel ‘To Catch a Rabbit’. I discovered Helen’s writing in 2013 when Durham Clayport Library were promoting the first winners of the Northern Crime Writing Competition*. The cover of ‘Rabbit’ caught my attention on the display stand and that was it for me, I was hooked by Helen’s writing; her capacity for telling a great story and most of all, for putting solid, interesting and well-rounded characters in front of us. I got to meet Helen at an author event in 2014 and after that we became ‘Twitter friends’. I pestered Helen for quite a while to find out when her follow-up to ‘Rabbit’ was going to be published, and when we were discussing which author we might get to join us at a book group meeting, Helen seemed to me the obvious choice. She agreed straight away, coming on the train from York to join us with the promise of tea and cake.

CaravanOne of Helen’s skills is to present on the page characters that demonstrate the breadth of humanity, showing their strengths and flaws. She is adept at giving the reader the right amount at each key point in the story and holding stuff back, revealing it just at the right moment. Clever, skilful writing. The main protagonist in ‘Rabbit’ is Sean Denton, who we all seemed to have fallen in love with. Sean is only 20 in this first of Helen’s crime books, but he’s just so darn interesting and discussion revealed that we want more of him in future books. He’s a lad who will go places; he has initiative and importantly, he’s interested in people. Given the opportunity, in spite of the restraints his PCSO role place upon him, he jumps on the opportunity to get involved in a crime, and gets into trouble with his superiors along the way.

‘To Catch a Rabbit’ is a story about sordid lives, exploitation, accidental death and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It raises issues of human trafficking and flawed people who occupy roles of responsibility, and the kindness and humanity that soar above all of this. For my part in re-reading the book, some things fell more sharply into focus and others settled comfortably into the background, yet my enjoyment of ‘Rabbit’ was just as pronounced. We asked Helen questions about her inspiration and influences for writing the book. How she conducted her research and why she focused on certain aspects of policing. We were unanimous in our praise for the creation and introduction of a character who was a PCSO rather than a full uniformed officer, and one reader, a former Prison Officer, was particularly interested in Helen’s depiction of how a prison operates.

angel%20catchWe loved other characters in the book too, in particular Sean’s Nan. We adored Nan and helpfully came up with wild, improbable scenarios for Nan in future books. Helen dutifully wrote our suggestions down and it’s a measure of how warm and receptive she is, that she bought into our suggestions, tweeting from the train journey home that she was writing notes on Nan’s future, with book 4 forming even before she’d finished book 3!

So, do look out for the next of Helen’s crime books ‘Bones in the Nest’ which is out on 23 July. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the next stage in Sean Denton’s career.

Other books I’ve enjoyed in the last month are Sarah Waters’ ‘The Paying Guests’ a stupendous book, and another re-reading of one of my favourite books of all time ‘South Riding’ by Winifred Holtby which should be on the national curriculum, if it isn’t already. When I finish my current read, Jessie Burton’s ‘The Miniaturist’, I have ‘Berlin Noir’ by Philip Kerr lined up to enjoy.

Next month’s book is Ann Patchett’s ‘Bel Canto’ which we’ll discuss on Monday 8 June and Angela will be writing the blog post following our discussion.

Happy reading folks. See you all next month.

 

Rachel

 

*Northern Crime and Moth Publishing is a partnership between New Writing North and Sunderland-based Business Educational Publishers Limited which aims to unearth and publish exciting new crime writing from writers who live and work in the North of England.