I’m a fan of crime fiction. P.D. James, Kate Atkinson, Susan
Hill, Ian Rankin, Steig Larsson to name a
few, tick all the boxes for me. So Dan had several hard acts to follow if he
was going to impress.
I’d already read, and been impressed by, other fiction by
this author – but not in this genre. So anything could happen.
And this was by no means the usual Holloway fare – although
the Holloway hallmarks of intelligent writing, acute observation of character
and high level of originality, were all present.
The key to good crime fiction, for me, is an engaging and
interesting main character. And in most cases the main character is the crime
solver – not the perpetrator. All of the above named authors – and I include
Holloway – achieve this requirement.
Tommy/Tommi West is a likeable, original, unique and complex
protagonist. He’s not a policeman – he’s an academic turned interior designer – but he is drawn
into investigating the possible murder of his former university professor.
Tommy is a good man, plagued by frail mental-health, who fights hard to get at
the truth, even though he dreads what that truth might be.
The ‘Company’ of the title is one made up of Oxford
university academics. Holloway portrays well the closed, claustrophobic and
somewhat narcissistic college world. A world that, in this story, hides a
Some of the elements of the plot are shocking, even
sickening – in a way that recalled some of Larsson’s content. Some of the
red-herrings really stink in a truly nauseating way, in terms of motives and
personalities. But Tommy’s goodness and the presence of love – though often
misplaced, misguided and misused- mean that the reader keeps faith with the
story. This is not crime porn. There’s nothing gratuitous here.
The story is beautifully crafted. The details are
amazing. Who’d have thought that an
ice-spoon (who knew there was such a thing?) used for serving beluga caviar,
could also be a murder weapon? There are twists aplenty. Just as you think you’ve
got the mystery sussed, your theory is disproved. I certainly didn’t guess the
end – which made me gasp.
Holloway is a master of the observation of human interaction
and reaction. His descriptions of the smallest nuances of expression, gesture
and behaviour are awesome – as is his understanding of human frailty and
One small quibble is that the manuscript would benefit from
a good proof-reader. There are several annoying
typos. There are also places where the meaning of a sentence is obscured
by peculiarly ordered phrases that look like they’ve been mis-edited – leaving
behind part of the original construction.
However, this is literate, intelligent and pleasing genre
fiction. I’d enjoy reading more of Tommy in his sleuthing role. And with its
visually attractive setting and strong characterisation it would translate well
to a dramatic form. Move over Inspector Morse.