on March 07, 2010
If you haven't heard of Frank Rawlins, you're in for a treat. This is the third novel from the Oxfordshire-based author with a sharp eye for the topical twist. His previous two novels, The Crunch and The Trouble With Money deal with troublesome tailgaters and Lottery woes. In Norm he applies his years of experience in local journalism to the detective genre with the sort of forensic detail you would expect from a man used to the murky ins and outs of police investigations - in this case into a serial killer with a gruesome calling card. But here's the twist: the hero isn't a grizzled, hard-bitten detective with issues - he's a young-ish ex-copper working for Crimestoppers, whose daily routine of taking calls from hysterical whistle-blowers is interrupted when he gets involved in the growing catalogue of bumpings-off and tries to help. At the same time he's wrestling with the intellectual trials of understanding Bill Bryson's A Short History of Everything, watching England play and getting his long-term girlfriend to commit to The Act. Rawlins's real skill is in pulling this very likeable character into an ever-darkening mesh of plot, which along the way takes in themes of religious obsession, sexual identity, social conformity (or not - and its consequences) and the sometimes blurred morality of police work. In doing so he's created a character who lives in the world of Rebus and Morse - but could also be one of us.