Review: GOOD PEOPLE by Ewart Hutton

GoodPeopleEwartHuttonDetective Sergeant Glyn Capaldi has been posted to “the big bit in the middle [of Wales] that God gave to the sheep” after disgracing himself during a case in Cardiff. It is meant to be a place where nothing happens, a place from which he might one day be able to redeem himself if he stays quietly out of trouble. The locals don’t think there’s much to be bothered with when a hired minibus is hijacked one Saturday night by a group of rugby supporters returning from Wales-England match.  Even when the group is found hiking in the woods the next day with one of their number missing, along with a female hitchhiker they supposedly picked up, the locals are un-fazed. And when the group reveals the woman was actually a prostitute they hired for the single men of their group (and who has now returned to the city) everyone but Capaldi thinks that’s the end of the business. The men have ‘come clean’ with their embarrassment and should be left alone. Capaldi though thinks there is something screwy about the story and the over-the-top reaction of the locals to his initially gentle probing is enough to keep him interested in uncovering what really happened that night.

It’s rare for me that a book’s title is enough to make it worth reading but as soon as I saw GOOD PEOPLE I knew I wanted to read the book. You hear and see that phrase used so often in modern parlance, often as a kind of defensiveness against some real or imagined deficiency in the group of people being so described. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of good people inhabited this book and how they might be the very opposite of good if you scratched the surface. And, in yet more rarity, I found exactly what I expected in that the good people of mid-Wales, well some of them at least, were very bad indeed. Hutton’s done a terrific job of depicting a fairly isolated, insular community in which everyone is connected by family, business or both and they don’t take kindly to interfering strangers who dare to question the behaviour of the community’s leaders. They’re good people, right?  At times this very atmospheric book, a fair bit of which takes place in back woods as depicted on the cover, felt like slightly updated Deliverance country. Deliciously creepy.

As the story’s first-person narrator Capaldi’s presence is strong but his black humour, dark-ish past and dissatisfaction with rural living provide enough substance to make spending so much time seeing the world through his eyes worthwhile. And although he does sport an ex-wife he’s not an alcoholic and doesn’t have any children feeling neglected by his dedication to his job so he’s not brimming with the genre’s stereotypes. He is surrounded by an interesting mix of supporting characters too, including some very bad bad guys. I particularly liked the depiction of the relationships between people; there were lots of layers here that gave the book something extra.

I have to say I wasn’t as thrilled with the plot, particularly towards the end when it turned into something of a farce and entirely unbelievable given what had gone before. I wish I could discuss what bothered me in more detail but that would require the giving of spoilers which I am loathe to do. The first three quarters of the novel was better though and even with the few odd, patchy bits that one might allow of a début, it definitely held my attention. Without dragging the story out Hutton did a good job of showing how difficult and slow it would be to uncover dark secrets in such a place as people are reticent to come forward with the little pieces of the puzzle they each have.

There was enough to like about GOOD PEOPLE to ensure I will actively seek out the next in what I presume is a planned series. The setting and characters were of above average quality and if the plot wasn’t quite up to that standard there was lots of promise. Definitely worth a read.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Blue Door [2012]
ISBN 9780007391172
Length 326
Format hardcover
Book Series #1 in the Glyn Capaldi series

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7 thoughts on “Review: GOOD PEOPLE by Ewart Hutton

  1. I’m in two minds about this book. I’ve heard good things about it, and the setting is near where my family are from. But ‘series’ books are beginning to put me off. I’m not sure how many more series I can keep track of and I find myself gravitating more towards standalones. Another one for my ‘maybe’ list I think.

  2. Bernadette – I like atmospheric books like that where the setting adds to the suspense of the story. And the ‘isolated community of ‘good people” theme has got me interested. This is something I mean to look out for because I haven’t read enough Wales-based novels.

  3. This sounds like an interesting book, although I’m not particularly fond of plots that spiral into something that’s not very believable. But I’m intrigued – I’m going to put it on my list if my library has it.

  4. Pingback: Books of the Month – January 2013 | Reactions to Reading

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