“In Memory. Harry Devlin. Died Suddenly, Liverpool. Midsummer’s Eve”
Six days before Midsummer’s Eve an announcement containing these words is hand delivered to the office of very much alive lawyer Harry Devlin. Harry’s partner in the legal practice thinks it’s a bit of a joke but Harry is not so sure and tries to work out who might have sent the announcement and what their intent might be. As Harry deals with a series of subsequent unsettling reminders of his possible upcoming death, he also becomes perturbed by a case in which first one body of a young woman then another is found mutilated. Don’t let that put you off though because this is not a book about graphic mutilations and psychopathic serial killers. It’s about ordinary, everyday people and their reactions to the sometimes extraordinary things that happen around them.
Among the many fine qualities displayed in Waterloo Sunset my favourite is the underlying sense of humour. Harry is a witty, satirical character whose reaction to such things as the pronouncements by management consultants about how he should maximise his business potential and the efforts by authorities to turn Liverpool into the City of Culture are priceless. But Harry’s partner describes him as “setting a gold standard in attracting trouble” so the humour is matched by action in the novel as Harry’s personal and professional lives become increasingly complicated. For openers an old lover (who is the ex-wife of one of the city’s most prominent gangsters) resurfaces while he attempts to connect with a new love interest, a client accuses him of conspiring to cover up the killing of his mother and at one point he is suspected of involvement in a murder.
Another thing that struck me about this book was the authentic feel of the character’s behaviour throughout the novel. Whether it was the man flinging accusations about the cover up of his mother’s murder at a nursing home, Harry’s partner’s response to Harry receiving the death notice or their building security man’s reaction to Harry discovering him in a compromising position they were all very believable characters behaving in ways that suited the picture Edwards had drawn of them. You generally expect the main characters to be handled properly in a novel like this but it’s pleasing to see the minor ones being deftly drawn too.
This book has a complicated plot which in a lesser writer’s hands might have devolved into chaos but Edwards keeps track of all the threads, red herrings and side-tracks with aplomb. Towards the end as one of the main threads is resolved I had all but forgotten about the Midsummer’s Eve announcement but fortunately Edwards had not and treated us to a humdinger of a climax. I had not read any of the previous seven novels in this series but did not feel at any disadvantage in terms of understanding the story and was easily drawn into Harry’s world and the city of Liverpool.
What about the audio book?
There’s no doubt that part of the attraction for me of Martin Edwards’ books in audio format (I have another one lined up already on my iPod) is that they’re narrated by Gordon Griffin who is an outstanding actor and storyteller (he has also narrated the two Ann Cleeves novels I’ve listened to).
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I have read and reviewed two of Edwards’ Lake District series: The Coffin Trail and The Arsinic Labyrinth as well as his brilliant fictionalised account of Hawley Crippen’s murder of his wife in Dancing for the Hangman.
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My rating 3.5/5
Narrator Gordon Griffin
Publisher ISIS Audio Books 
ISBN N/A (downloaded from audible.com)
Length 10 hours 46 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series Number 8 in the Harry Devlin series
Source I bought it