The Twilight Time by Karen Campbell

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The Twilight Time by Karen Campbell

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Elaine Dingsdale
Reviewed by Elaine Dingsdale
Summary: A stunning debut which is so much more than a crime novel. Excellent characters, a location which has a voice all of its own and a gripping plot - Karen Campbell really could be the new Rankin. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: April 2008
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
ISBN: 978-0340935590

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An absolutely stunning debut novel from this very talented new author. From the outset, the reader is immediately transported to a world of violence and intimidation-the dark atmosphere is almost palpable! (…it was only the decades of pollution which held the stone together) The city lives and breathes (and laughs in typical Glaswegian fashion), and in some respects becomes a character in its own right.

The protagonists, if anything, are even more successful, and I'm longing for the next novel in the series to be published, so we can learn a bit more about what make the three main characters tick. Firstly, we have Anna, the superficially successful high flyer,who in fact comes across as a deeply troubled and unhappy soul. Very defensive in her attitude, she betrays a lack of confidence which jars with her public persona, and this trait will hopefully be developed and expanded in forthcoming novels. She's an enigma… no doubt about that!

Jamie, her former lover, is also a troubled character, and initial sympathy with his worries (coping with a new baby and a wife suffering from PND), quickly give way to irritation at his duplicities. But, again, there's enormous scope to develop his character, and I suspect that he will become progressively more important in subsequent works.

In some ways, Cath (Jamie's wife and former police officer), is the most intriguing of the trio. She has hidden depths and strengths-a fact with Anna seems to subconsciously recognise, and resent. Cath's stoicism in trying to break through Anna's shell lends a real pathos to the novel, and lifts it far beyond the confines of a crime novel. The psychological insights make for very interesting reading-although crimes abound, there are plenty of other angles to this novel.

The minor characters are also remarkably well drawn-from baby Eilidh (described by Anna as a live teddy bear!), to the Polish war veteran- a few deft sentences brings them to life for the reader.

The economy of the prose is stunning - every word is relevant: embellishments don't exist. If Campbell comments on something-pay attention: it will be relevant to the plot. I was particularly impressed by the quality of the prose. Hard hitting, yet tender, heartbreaking and inspiring. Underlined throughout, with a very droll sense of humour-reflecting indeed the inhabitants of this amazing city.(Better than watching Wildlife on One)

The plot gallops along at a great pace, and although clues are given, the outcome is by no means obvious. The reader is lead along to the conclusion, but can never be completely sure that there won't be one final twist in the plot. Campbell tantalises and suggests scenarios, and then postulates a quite different outcome (just to cover all eventualities!)

Finally, while primarily a crime novel, this offers so much more besides. In some respects, I find myself less interested in the crimes per se, longing instead to discover more of the characters. The novel works extremely well on all levels, and I recommend it unreservedly.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of Rise by Karen Campbell.

We've recently reviewed another book based in Glasgow, but The Twilight Time is much better. We're tempted to compare Campbell with Ian Rankin at his best, but hope we're not tempting fate.

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