22nd October 2019. 3.5 stars.
In the last of the Briony Williams trilogy, the author lovingly recreates London 1976 in an atmospheric and different kind of police procedural.
It is the beginning of punk rock, carefree fashion, and teenage rebellion. Sharon, bored at school, escapes during a class visit to the Tate Modern, unaware that her new punk friends have links to Sudden Deff, a cult band with a wild stage show and some sinister beliefs and practices.
Detective Inspector Briony Williams, back in London, slowly pieces together some disparate evidence and clues, including a gallery of photographs of her and two colleagues in a fanzine dedicated to Sudden Deff. When one of these colleagues is brutally attacked, the threat becomes all too real and the race is on to identify and catch the culprits before they inflict more harm.
The author clearly has a great affection for the London punk scene, which she crafts and describes so vividly. Unfortunately, the level of detail contributes to the slow pace of the story, which stifles the tension and suspense until it catches fire in the second half. Once the investigation gets moving, the pace picks up, the various threads of the story come together for a climax that was over a little too quickly for my liking.
The characters are well-drawn, the dialogue is vivid, and the period is evoked with passion and care, capturing the raw energy and anarchy of the punk era. I loved the atmosphere, but wanted the plot to catch fire. The quality of the writing kept me going, and I’m glad I persevered because the story delivered in a memorable second half. But in the end it’s the punks I remember, not the murders solved.
It is the fierce English summer of 1976 and the Punk movement is on the rise.
‘Chaos’ is the catchcry down in its heartland at the World’s End of London, and Detective Briony Williams wryly observes that though ‘they stick pins in themselves, wear leather masks, and insult the Queen’, most of this is not against the law.
But things take a darker turn as a new group calling itself ‘Sudden Deff’ shows signs of wanting to live up to its name.
When Briony learns that she and her colleagues have appeared on ‘Deff Row’ in the group’s fanzine, she is drawn into a fatal game with adversaries who always seem to be two moves ahead.
And when Sharon, a young runaway, moves into a squat with her new punk mates, she enters a sinister world and unknowingly puts her own life in danger.
Can Briony uncover the leader Sudden Deff before anyone comes to harm?
Or will she be too late to stop chaos from being unleashed?