Laurent Gaude- Hell’s Gate

When his son is killed by gangsters’ crossfire on his way to school, Neapolitan taxi driver Matteo is consumed by despair.
But just when he feels life has lost all meaning, he encounters a man who claims the living can find ways into the afterlife. And legend says that there’s an entrance to the underworld beneath Naples. What if Matteo had a chance of bringing Pippo back from the dead?

Very, very, rarely does a book literally haunt my dreams in the way that the perfectly executed Hell’s Gate did, and as a mark of its intensely powerful writing it drifts back into my thoughts. Despite only running to less than two hundred pages, this book contains more philosophical examination of the human condition, and important questions and observations on the nature of faith, redemption and the life beyond,  that I really did experience a multitude of emotions reading this. What could simply have been a straightforward tale of revenge and loss reveals itself to be so much more…

Although I’m probably the most irreligious person I know, I was genuinely moved, terrified and in awe of Gaude’s portrayal of the afterlife, and the sheer intensity of the love that Matteo exhibits in reconnecting with his son, despite the huge mental and physical cost to himself. Gaude’s depiction of Hell, and the souls that dwell within it, conjures up images worthy of Hieronymus Bosch and Dante, and the writing of these scenes in particular is utterly chilling. Gaude possesses an innate skill in making us believe that we are walking in Matteo’s shadow as he navigates the underworld, such is the visual power of the horrific images and depiction of sounds that accompany his torturous journey to reclaim his son. This unrelenting presentation of human misery and suffering is powerful in the extreme, and gives the reader more than one  pause for thought.

The characterisation of the damaged individuals who become aligned with Matteo in his hellish mission, is suffused with pathos. The individual travails of their lives gives Gaude ample room to provide comment on sexuality, poverty, exploitation and the insidious power of the Catholic church, all of which he does with a cool eye and sense of detachment which makes these individual’s  suffering all the more poignant and resonant. This is a masterclass in characterisation where Gaude shifts the focus on each character subtly and fluidly to really get under the reader’s skin, and worm their way into our consciousness so they truly stay with us.

There is simply no way that this book can be usurped from my eventual favourite reads of the year, even at this early stage, as I was profoundly affected by the power of Gaude’s writing. Mesmerising, cerebral writing that I cannot praise enough. Highly recommended.

(With thanks to Gallic Books for the ARC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luca Veste Blog Tour- The Inspiration for The Dying Place/Review

DP Blog Tour2 To celebrate the UK publication of Luca Veste’s second book The Dying Place it gives the Raven great pleasure to post a short piece by Luca on his initial inspiration  for the plot.  The Dying Place raises some very valid arguments at each extreme of the moral dilemma it presents, but is violence the most viable course of action to deal with the social deprivation that has permeated our everyday lives?  Read on…

“When I started writing THE DYING PLACE, my first thought was that it had to be different. Not different in a non-crime fiction sense, but different from DEAD GONE, in a way that would be at least noticeable to people. There was a temptation to go with what had seemingly worked in the first novel – a serial killer thriller, with an unknown force stalking the streets of Liverpool a year on from events in DEAD GONE – and I even mapped out a small plan for such a novel. I found that I wanted to test myself a little however, seeing if I could hold suspense with one body/death for over half the novel. Then, in a conversation with my dad talking about Book Two, the chat turned to what has been an ongoing battle between us about what to do with issues with young people. My dad is very liberal in almost all subjects, with one exception – how to deal with what some people call “scallies”. Young people who cause problems on the streets and within society. A disenfranchised section of society, who are the subject of much media interest, even though they make up a small minority of young people. My dad’s idea – one which is mirrored in so many of his generation – is to get a van full of “old boys” and go around giving these “scallies” a good kicking, which apparently would sort them out and solve all the problems caused by them.

lucaNaturally, I have misgivings about this idea. Violence stopping violence just doesn’t seem to work logically in my mind. However, I know there is – and has been since time began – a clash of generations, with the older generation always believing the younger generation is somehow a “problem”. That clash of generations was something I become more and more interested in, and eventually became the focus of THE DYING PLACE. I knew, however, that allowing my own thinking to intrude in the novel would make the book too much of a manifesto against one idea. Therefore, I had to present the two forces equally – the issues and crimes caused by some young people vs the rose-tinted view of the past some older people have. The book opens with those two view-points – a single mother of young teenagers and the issues created by a society which still treats them with disdain… and a pensioner, lamenting the way he sees his city changing around him, and the very real crimes he experiences. As we go through the book, the characters we meet are from both sides, their experiences skewing viewpoints and thoughts.

What I hope it creates is a moral dilemma in the readers mind. Whilst you may begin feeling sympathy for one character may change over time. I want to challenge a reader, whilst also providing a thrilling read, which will hopefully keep you gripped. There’s nothing better than hearing “I couldn’t stop turning the pages… ” for me.

Oh, and book three will be a serial killer again… but with a twist! ” 

Raven’s Review

luca

Once inside…there’s no way out. A fate worse than death…

DI Murphy and DS Rossi discover the body of known troublemaker Dean Hughes, dumped on the steps of St Mary’s Church in West Derby, Liverpool. His body is covered with the unmistakable marks of torture. As they hunt for the killer, they discover a worrying pattern. Other teenagers, all young delinquents, have been disappearing without a trace. Who is clearing the streets of Liverpool? Where are the other missing boys being held? And can Murphy and Rossi find them before they meet the same fate as Dean?

I think it was Karin Slaughter who said that to really tap into the sociological fears and concerns of any community that the perfect conduit for this is crime fiction. In The Dying Place– the follow up to his debut novel Dead Gone– Veste proves the point admirably. Focusing on a band of older vigilantes, swiping errant youths off the streets of Liverpool, and incarcerating them to undergo a form of behavioural re-programming, Veste uses the plot to provide a thoughtful and balanced examination of how these youths, that are such a thorn in the side of their local community, should be dealt with, and if meeting violence with violence is really the right way to address the problem. Do these youths all really fit a template because of the way they dress? Are some conditioned to be ‘bad’ by the very unstable nature of their upbringings, and detrimental familial influences? As the vigilante’s leader becomes more unhinged, scarred by the actions of youths such as these in his personal life, Veste ramps up the tension and the police themselves come into the firing line too.

Cleverly, our empathy is roundly manipulated, as we see how the actions of this vigilante band spirals out of control, and the implications for not only their detainees, but also bringing into play their family backgrounds, and the effects of the investigation on the police protagonists- most notably DI David Murphy, and his feisty DS Scouse/Italian sidekick Laura Rossi. I was most impressed with this detective duo in the debut, Dead Gone, and love the balance between the stoical and world weary Murphy, set against the hot temper and really quite enjoyable colourful swearing of his police partner Rossi. What I also enjoy about Veste’s characterisation is the way that he roundly avoids the typical stereotypes of many crime fiction novels, giving a realistic feel to the personal lives of both, and how the very nature of their jobs, and this investigation in particular, impinge on their personal relationships- or lack of. They form a solid partnership that is providing a real backbone to the continuation of the series, and with the shocking denouement affecting Murphy on an incredibly personal level, I will be interested to see the repercussions of this in the next book. Within the framework of this crime novel, Veste balances perfectly the larger sociological issues, with a pacey plot, and a solid cast of characters that proves itself an eminently enjoyable read. More please…

Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Scouse heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He is currently studying psychology and criminology at University in Liverpool.  He is also the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’, and co-editor of ‘True Brit Grit’, also an anthology of short stories for charity. A former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again), he now divides his time between home life, Uni work and writing. Follow on Twitter @lucaveste

Find out more about Dead Gone here

(With thanks to Avon for the ARC)