book review – 1974

There are several levels with which you can engage with David Peace. On one it is almost poetic with images and words being repeated and manipulated to support the grim Yorkshire landscape.

On another it is a more traditional narrative charting a journalist’s desperation to make his name and get through the corruption to the truth. He fails to understand at the start just how deep the corruption has spread and just how and why little girls have gone missing and occasionally turned up dead.

The year 1974 is reinforced through references to news events, cars, music and fashions. In that sense it reminds you of Life on Mars but that is where any resemblance ends.

Because this is a story that is written in a gripping adrenaline pumped way it is hard to stop yourself getting dragged into the experience that Peace creates for the reader. This is much more than just a straightforward story about events unwinding against a historical background but is a test of a reader’s ability to grasp geography, character relationships and the significance of events.

As it is the first in a series of four this is also an introduction to the world of Leeds and the surrounding environment where the lines between friend and foe are far from black and white. This Northern world, where rain and the darkness of night play a crucial role, is not the sort of world that has a corner for the innocent to escape into. If you get caught up then you get caught up regardless of your innocence.

At the heart of the story is Eddie Dunford a crime reporter trying to make a name for himself who discovers that not only is he fighting criminals he can’t see but coming up against barriers from the police, his colleagues and his own boss.

By the end he is so far removed from the normal world he inhabited before he became aware of the depth of the problems in West Yorkshire that he resorts to tactics that at first would have seemed out of character but by the end feel almost natural.

Peace has created a dark world of corrupt coppers, smooth talking criminals and complicit journalists in which explodes the kidnapping and murder of little girls. The way that those crimes are solved reveals the true loyalties that exist in the Yorkshire community. They also reveal the cancerous effect that evil can have not just on those directly involved but the community around them.

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