The Great Darkness
Not every novel you read will create a new and unexpected emotion. For the most part, I want a book to take my brain and imagination into another world, and a good story does that for me. It might be a complicated plot, or full-on excitement from the first page, or myriad other small things. In my world, reading a good book is safe escapism.
I discovered Jim Kelly by chance when I borrowed this book from the library. It’s set in Cambridge in the opening weeks of WW2 and it appealed because I thought it would be interesting to compare it with Rory Clements’ Tom Wilde series. And I really did enjoy The Great Darkness, with its atmospheric descriptions of Cambridge and an interesting protagonist in the shape of Detective Inspector Eden Brooke. So much so, in fact, that I looked for another in the series, found The Mathematical Bridge, and enjoyed that too.
Now I’ve also managed to read two books in Kelly’s Philip Dryden series: Nightrise and The Funeral Owl. And they are equally good. That series is set in the Fens, where Dryden is a reporter on the local newspaper. He’s usually chasing several different stories in each novel, some of which link to each other. The plot of Nightrise is built around stolen identities and a bullet-riddled body; and The Funeral Owl around gang violence, metal thefts and moonshine. The books aren’t thrillers, nor are they police procedurals. They’re just good, solid mysteries which are written in a way that catches the imagination.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that Jim Kelly is a journalist and correspondent for the Financial Times, and that he actually lives in Ely. I find his descriptions of the Fens rather magical – mysterious, yet shrieking of realism. And bound into the descriptions are bits of local history which add another layer of interest.
As a reader you’re allowed to get under the skin of both Eden Brooke and Philip Dryden, but the other characters are more lightly drawn. Yet you’re given enough information so you can create an image of everyone in your mind’s eye which allows the narrative to hum along.
So yes, I enjoy Jim Kelly’s books. And I’ve enjoyed all the ones I’ve read so much that I’ve taken them with me when I’ve been out and about, just in case I had the opportunity to snatch a few minutes reading. I can’t put my finger on what it is specifically that makes them so enjoyable to read. I just like them a lot!