Over twenty years ago Dani Lancing met a brutal end. The people she left behind are still haunted by the tragedy, consumed by their grief. It led her best friend to become a hero. To her father talking to the dead. And it will drive her mother to become a killer…
I must admit that when I started reading The Last Winter of Dani Lancing, my initial reaction was one of “Oh no, not another ‘I see ghosts’ type of book”, but thankfully this impression was quickly dispelled and this proved itself to be a really quite clever and compelling read…
What I loved particularly about this book was the way that the story gradually unfolded with more than one or two surprises along the way. This could so easily have devolved into a very linear tale of the lives of those in the shadows of loss- Dani’s parents and her closest friend Tom- and consequently been a little dull. However, thanks to the skill of Viner’s writing and his control of the pace, the reader is constantly wrong-footed, as the details of Dani’s brief life are revealed and the totally surprising consequences of her murder, as evinced by the actions of her mother on the man she believes culpable, and the undertaking of a career in the police force of her friend Tom in the wake of his personal loss. These two characters in particular, carry the weight of the novel, as the death of Dani reverberates through, and dictates their actions, and both characters are incredibly empathetic as the strands of their stories are unveiled. Dani’s father acts as a foil to the more extreme actions of the aforementioned, and Viner skilfully depicts the sad image of a man bereft, trying to hold onto his memories of his daughter by conversing with her and seeking to come to terms with his personal loss. The depth of feeling conveyed in these passages is really quite heartrending, especially set against the more vital actions of her mother and Tom. I am loathe to go into details of the plot as I would want any reader to be surprised as I was by the clever touches of misdirection that Viner instigates throughout, that truly added to my experience as a reader.
There is an ease to Viner’s writing seldom achieved in crime fiction, that does make this book exceedingly difficult to put down- I read this almost in one sitting. His attention to the more sensual details of a scene is unerring, so that the reader really experiences the feel and sensory perception of the smallest details- the coldness of the snow and the smell of blood for example- as well as being totally caught up in the strength of human emotion and weaknesses of the main protagonists. The book is cut through with some nice little comic touches as well to, at times, that lighten the whole affair as this really is a book fair bursting with the gamut of human emotion. I loved that this book so quickly revealed itself as something new and refreshing in a fairly well-used story arc, and the power and intelligence of the writing kept me reading. An excellent debut and a refreshing new voice in crime fiction.
P. D. Viner is an award winning film-maker and creator of the highly successful SmartPass audio guides. He’s married to an American Doctor of Linguistics and, along with their five year old daughter, he is her test-subject. He has lived abroad for ten years, working and studying in the USA, New Zealand and Russia, and has been a pretty bad stand-up comedian, produced mime shows for Japanese TV and written theatre for the Shakespeare Festival, produced in London and Verona. This is his first murder. Author website: http://pdviner.com/ Follow on Twitter @philviner
The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is published 12/9/13 (Ebury Press)
Police officer Tom Bevans is nicknamed the Sad Man by his colleagues. As a Family Liaison Officer he is always the bearer of bad news – it is his job to tell the friends and family of victims the fate of their loved ones. But Tom is weighted down by crimes both old and new – haunted by the death of his best friend Dani, whose murder has never been solved. When a rare opportunity emerges for Tom to take the lead in a horrific murder investigation, he is determined to get justice for the victim. A young girl has been found in her own home, cut so badly – and so carefully – that she has bled to death, leaving a deliberate pool of blood in the shape of angel wings….
(With thanks to Ebury Publishing for the ARC)