A group of vigilantes are carrying out a campaign of harassment against the homeless, hounding them both verbally and physically to get them off the streets. Jimmy Mullen is approached by his friend Gadge, who wants to confront the people behind it but Jimmy has finally got his life back on track. He’s working at a hostel for 18 to 25-year-olds and he’s reluctant to get involved in anything dodgy. Gadge decides to go it alone but is attacked by two of the vigilantes. The police find him unconscious in an alley, covered in blood. Problem is, there’s a dead body in the alley too and it’s his blood that Gadge is covered in. He’s also got the murder weapon in his hand. Convinced that Gadge has been set up, and feeling guilty that he didn’t back him up in the first place, Jimmy returns to the streets to try and find out who’s behind his friend’s difficulties. Unfortunately, he’s about to discover that Gadge has a lot of enemies to choose from…
And so the curtain falls on what has been one of the most compelling, sensitive and totally enjoyable crime trilogies, that it has been my pleasure to read. From the very outset with The Man On The Street and then One Way Street, this series, set amongst the homeless community in Newcastle Upon Tyne, has shone a light on a previously neglected section of our community, usually side-lined as victims or bystanders. With an immense sensitivity and truthful depiction of life on the streets Trevor Wood has consistently sought to emphasise the humanity and camaraderie that exists between his characters, but never shying away from the less honourable and more dangerous aspects of their lives as they strive to survive on the city streets.
With each book, Wood has focussed in on the particular lives and experiences of his triumvirate of characters, Jimmy- ex serviceman haunted by his experience of the Falklands conflict; Deano, a young lad who has experienced systemic abuse throughout his life, and finally Gadge, a wily old man with his love of conspiracy theories, whose previous life is put front and centre in this book. The interplay between these characters has been absolutely essential, underscored by both affectionate joshing, and times of intense exasperation and danger, that brings a vivid and utterly credible feel to the characters. Wood’s depiction of Jimmy’s integrity and honour, despite his difficulties from suffering with intervals of PTSD, and his fierce loyalty to both Deano and Gadge is the lynchpin of the series, and never more so in this one, when his seemingly more settled life is disrupted by his intervention to exonerate Gadge. As the completely unexpected myriad levels of Gadge’s former existence unfold, Wood neatly draws together the trilogy, further defining the way that these men conduct themselves, and their essential beliefs, that are unpeeled like an orange over the course of the three books. He also cleverly addresses some unfinished business from the previous book, putting the focus back on the need for these three characters to remain bonded and loyal to each other, whatever life throws at them. Flanked by a credible cast of surrounding characters, who we have got to know better over the course of the series, Wood’s gift for credible and colourful characterisation is the key to the enjoyment of these books, and with a particular event towards the close of this book, I was completely moved, having felt so intimately acquainted with all these people, and the sense of knowing them so well.
Perhaps with this book, and the previous two, I have a special affinity with them with the setting of Newcastle Upon Tyne, being very familiar with the city and its surrounds. Having said this though, I think that Wood so effectively captures the mood and feel of this particular location, that even if you had never set foot there, you would have a real and lasting impression of Newcastle: the passion for football, the areas of regeneration and renewal, the bustling nightlife, but yet, (in common with every big city) the underlying poverty, neglect and crime, with the work of a few selflessly deflecting the hopelessness of those below the radar. This is exemplified by The Pit Stop, where Jimmy and his cohorts can guarantee some warmth and a square meal, offering a place of sanctuary for the homeless, away from the grim reality of life on the streets. Equally, in focussing on the homeless community across the series, Wood meets this potentially contentious and unfamiliar subject to some, with a clarity and balance that doesn’t overly romanticise his characters, or conversely totally demonise them, with a pitch perfect balance of both their strengths and flaws.
I must confess to feeling a little bereft at this point, having enjoyed this series so much, and Dead End Street in particular, and now parting company with these characters. In closing all I can say is, please discover these books for yourselves, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. 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, the Crimefest Specsavers Best Crime Debut Award and has been shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His second, One Way Street, is available in hardback, e-book and audiobook. He is represented by Oli Munson at AM Heath. Follow on Twitter @TrevorWoodWrite.
(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)