Russell James has been named “the Godfather of Noir” by Ian Rankin. Russell writes crime novels - about criminals and victims, not the cozy procedural or whodunnit. He is the editor of Great British Fictional Detectives.
How would you feel, living with and being responsible for a man with a severe mental health problem who keeps a battery of flesh-eating insects in his garden shed? A man who was in the past suspected, though never formally accused, of killing his parents by burning down their home after they’d threatened to dispose of his insect farm?
In this novel the narrator, Jonathan – and note the slightly prissy, pedantic use of the full version of his own name – is the sole carer for his older brother, Roger, harmless and benign most of the timebut given to rare outbursts of sudden rage. Roger is said to have the mental capacity of a boy of eight – though he knows an awful lot about insects.
Jonathan has his own problems. He is naïve, slightly paranoid, foolishly impulsive and, one feels, not at ease in the modern world. Though he has managed to find and marry an apparently perfect wife, her career compels her to spend weeks, sometimes months, away from him in the company of other men, one of whom has made no secret of his lust for her. Things go wrong.
This is wonderfully creepy-crawly suspense novel in which you have to wait half the book for the crime. But that crime – a murder, was it, or accident? – is just part of a stickily compulsive read.