Holding by Graham Norton

holdingI’m always a bit dubious when celebrities publish novels. Is it really them or is it ghostwritten? Ghostwriters are all about technique, capturing the voice of their subject and producing a well-crafted book to order. On this basis I think we can be confident that Norton actually wrote Holding.

It’s set in a whimsical Irish village which feels like the 1950s apart from a few extraneous cultural references (like the man who’s always carrying round an iPad for no discernible reason). There’s a village guard with a housekeeper, a nosy matriarch, and long-buried family secrets. One of those is unburied, along with a pile of bones, by a group of builders on a local farm.

The guard, Sergeant PJ Collins, calls in a detective from the city, who’s probably a graduate and knows about things like forensics but it’s not really necessary. The plot, such as it is, largely consists of people telling PJ stuff. Meanwhile he finds self-realisation just through proximity to an actual crime, it appears (though his arousal at proximity to a bulky builder in his car, which might have made for a more interesting storyline, turns out to be a red herring).

Each character arrives with a trailer-load of backstory and a skip’s worth of description (it’s helpful to be given the full inventory of the local shop and to learn that it stays open long hours for people who run out of things). You could say this slows the story down but if you cut it out I’m not sure what would be left.

There is the sweet little story of PJ striving to find happiness, and some gentle small-town humour, but overall it reads like that shaky first attempt which the wise author keeps firmly locked in a drawer.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

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