A series of bizarre drug-related deaths among runaway teenagers has set the North East’s homeless community on edge. The word on the street is that a rogue batch of Spice – the zombie drug sweeping the inner cities – is to blame, but when one of Jimmy’s few close friends is caught up in the carnage, loyalty compels him to find out what’s really going on. As his probation officer constantly reminds him: all he needs to do is keep out of trouble. Sadly for him, trouble seems to have a habit of tracking Jimmy down…
Having described Trevor Wood’s previous book, The Man On The Street as compelling and unerringly perceptive, with it gaining a spot in my Top Ten of 2020, I was more than a little excited to be transported once again to the homeless community of Newcastle Upon Tyne, and the trials that await Jimmy, a unique, unofficial and sometimes reluctant private detective…
One of the major things that impresses me about Wood’s writing both here, and in the previous book, is the way he captures and depicts the underclass that exists just beneath the surface of society, and the unfairness and prejudice with which they are labelled and treated. Bearing in mind that everyone is only one step away from possible homelessness at all times, for a vast variety of reasons, Woods always seeks to really humanise his characters, depicting them not as the commonly perceived idea of this community as being violent and threatening, but a group of people with flaws and weaknesses that have led to them slipping through the cracks of society, some of them through no fault of their own. Woods paints a vivid and perceptive picture of life on the street, the underlying threat of street violence, the fear of abuse, the exploitation of addiction, the fragility of familial bonds, and the cloak of invisibility as ‘normal’ people go about their business around them, but also the friendships and camaraderie that can ease the pain of life on the fringes of society.
Despite the very human failings of addiction and so on, there is a moral code at work here, epitomised by Jimmy the central character, his homeless buddies Gadge and Deano, and those they interact with in the more ‘respectable’ walks of life in the police and probation service. Jimmy, in particular, has acquired a certain degree of respect after the events of the last book, which has led to a symbiotic relationship with a police detective, Andy Burns, as well as the respect, and sometimes disrespect, of his peers in the homeless community. Wood’s characterisation is brilliantly drawn once again, perfectly capturing the fear and personal upsets of his band of characters, but also the moments of affectionate ribald humour and strong feeling of solidarity, as one character jokingly puts it the sense of all for one, and one for all.
Although still in the grip of PTSD episodes, a consequence of his previous naval career, Jimmy is picking his way through life with more settled accommodation, the chance of love and a further rebuilding of his relationship with his previously estranged daughter Kate, until trouble rears its ugly head. When Deano, his young homeless friend goes missing, Jimmy is compelled to find out why and how this has happened, drawing him into a sordid world of exploitation and drugs, and more than a whiff of trouble. With all the recent press coverage on county lines and using kids to transport drugs across the country, Wood takes an interesting angle on this theme, and we find the power behind this particular throne is not as obvious as it first appears. The grim world of drug dependency, and those that profit from them is put into crystal clear focus, and portrays a dispiriting, but unfortunately, realistic view of the temptations, financial gain, and self destruction that drugs provide.
Once again, Woods uses his setting of Newcastle Upon Tyne and it’s surrounds in One Way Street to great effect, that even as a non-native reader, you will get a sense of the city, its energy- good and bad- and what makes it tick, stoicism, football, and poking fun at Mackems (Sunderland dwellers) feature highly, which as a former resident of this great city always leads to a snigger or two. If you like any of the crime writers who specialise in urban crime, you will definitely enjoy the virtual exploration of the city that Wood provides, and his depiction of the slightly tarnished sheen that all cities have under the surface. I’m a real admirer of this writer’s work and delighted that this book is such a sharp and insightful follow up to his debut last year. Highly recommended.
Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for 25 years and considers himself an adopted Geordie, though he still can’t speak the language. He’s a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for 16 years joining, presciently, as a Writer. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. His first novel, The Man on the Street, won the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. His second, One Way Street, is now out in e-book and audiobook. He is represented by Oli Munson at AM Heath.
(With thanks to Quercus Books for the ARC)
Check out the rest of the #BlogBlast at these excellent sites: