I enjoyed reading 'An Explosive Time' by Julia Hughes, the third of the Celtic Cousins' Adventures. Today my husband, Michael Murray, finished reading 'An Explosive Time' and I'm pleased to post his review here on Indie Bookworm.
'An Explosive Time' is a wonderfully entertaining blend of the real and the surreal. This delightfully picaresque comedy-drama zings and zips along with amazing vitality aided by dry, clever, worldly dialogue redolent of the back-chat and demotic bon mots of the London streets. Chas and Dave meet the Sweeny via Minder with a touch of magical realism.
D.I. Crombie, a very human Detective Inspector, as authentic as a pair of policemen's boots, is determined to do the right thing albeit in an unorthodox manner. His mission isn't made any easier by the actions of the Celtic Cousins; an elephant recently liberated from the circus; to say nothing of a bathroom monopolised by a crocodile. This reptile is depicted with such appealing and attractive menace by Julia Hughes that, for me, going to the bathroom will never be the same again!
The cast is an impressive gallery of strong and vividly contrasting characters that includes extremely heavy London villains, diamond geezers, various chancers and of course cops: some ineffectual, others irreverent and one definitely bent. The other central character whose presence is ubiquitous throughout the novel is London: not the London of tourist attractions but the city of caffs, corner pubs and undistinguished back streets linked by urban clearways and motorways enclosing sanctuaries of green open spaces that remind us that not too long ago this great, sprawling capital was once a series of discrete and picturesque villages separated by open fields. Julia Hughes' wonderful evocation of this urban hinterland is so accurate it made me, a Londoner living in the North, feel homesick for a pint in 'The British Volunteer' and a plate of pie and mash.
There's plenty of action mixed in with the wacky comedy as well as a touching sub-plot of a love story. The author's genuinely original and descriptive writing style makes good use of metaphor: after an explosion 'Oversized scarlet petals hurtled skywards'; houses appear 'to march in one long terrace'; and when D.I. Crombie launches himself at the hard men it is with 'rage burning through every molecule of blood in his veins'.
I hugely enjoyed 'An Explosive Time' which is the third in the 'Celtic Cousins' series. I recommend it and shall certainly be reading the other titles.
Michael Murray July 2015