Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn and Child is a curious, strange, often delightful work that cannot really be described as a novel in any traditional sense of the word. More a collection of stories or vignettes connected by the two titular characters, the Irish author's ambitious work is humorous, imaginative, and, at times, surprisingly moving. Focusing on the professional and personal lives of a pair of English police detectives (also of different races and sexual orientations), Hawthorn and Child delves into the seedy world of crime, conspiracy, and death — but also geopolitics, love, and relationships. It's a police drama (sans the usual procedural asides but with plenty of the requisite violence and heinousness) but also a story of friends, colleagues, and their lives outside of the beat. Ridgway's prose is staccato and unadorned, but possesses a rhythmic or cadenced quality to it. His imagination is surely a productive one, and some of the book's scenes and settings are entirely unexpected. While not a perfect work, Hawthorn and Child makes up for in charm, creativity, and originality whatever it may lack in cohesiveness and consistency. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Hawthorn and Child are London detectives diligently investigating crimes, yet they are a distinctly odd pair. The entire book has an overwhelming feeling of strangeness; even the secondary characters are peculiar and eccentric. Ridgway pushes a lot of boundaries, but he does it exceedingly well. Reading this, I had the feeling of being dropped into an already-existing scenario — nothing is explained, only experienced. While unsettling, the format lends itself to the unfolding of surprise after surprise in an innovative way. Each chapter has the clear sense of being inside the narrator's head, with the action being a blend of the character's perspective and the actual truth. The result is more a feeling of "experiencing" this book rather than reading it. I almost wonder if Ridgway knew where this book was going when he started writing; it seems that fresh and unexpected.
It feels more like a collection of short stories, with central characters running throughout, rather than a straight-up novel. The "chapters" are not really connected to each other, but, as much as I hate short stories, that isn't an issue here. There is a real depth to Hawthorn's character, and the book glides along quickly and feels hefty enough to be classified as a novel.
Not for the squeamish, parts of Hawthorn and Child are as dark as anything I've come across. But for a purely novel experience — one that is seriously well done, if slightly bizarre — this is your book. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A book that redefines our ideas of what a novel can do, Hawthorn & Child
breaks every mold. Hilarious and cunning, genuinely eerie and yet peculiarly moving, Hawthorn & Child tosses away our fantasies of resolution in favor of the magic of suspended belief.
Hawthorn and Child are mid-ranking London detectives tasked with finding significance in scattered facts. They are comic ghosts – one white and gay, one black and straight – turning up repeatedly and ineffectively to haunt the scene of some catastrophe or another, appearing and disappearing along with a ghost car, a crime boss, a pickpocket, a dead race-car driver, and a pack of wolves. Mysteries are everywhere, but the biggest of all is our mysterious – and hopeless – compulsion to solve them. In Hawthorn & Child, the trippiest novel New Directions has published in years, the only certainty is that we’ve all misunderstood everything.
"Breathtakingly unpredictable and unapologetically strange. And the writing is perfectly assured and elegant." The Guardian
"Brilliantly well done. Everything about this vibrant, wonderfully written novel is alive, funny and deeply troubled. Read . Better still read it twice: it is that real, that good, that true." Largehearted Boy
"The London we encounter in Ridgway's unsettling new novel is a city of mystery, a cloud of fog which allows few glimpses of clarity -- despite the many attempts at crime-solving made by the two police detective protagonists. Characters, with varying levels of criminality, appear and disappear: a man shot by someone in a vintage car no one else witnesses; a potentially psychopathic editor who obsesses over a strange fantasy manuscript; a pickpocket; a daughter in the throes of her first sexual relationship. In spite of the book's general obscurity, two protagonists are fully realized, intriguing characters: exact opposites, one black, straight, good-looking, and secure; the other white, gay, and neurotic. Their appearance is always a welcome moment within each chapter. Ridgway's writing is beautiful, sardonic, and well-contained. A detective novel with many crimes and few solutions concerned more with human connection (or lack thereof) than cases and clues, Ridgway's book is successfully thought-provoking and haunting." Publishers Weekly
"An idiosyncratic and fascinating novel... refreshingly contemporary in language and style." Zadie Smith
"The novel that has impressed, mesmerized and bamboozled me most this past year is Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway. It begins as a police procedural, then spins outwards, never quite coming back to explain the mystery. Breathtakingly unpredictable and unapologetically strange. And the writing is perfectly assured and elegant" Ian Rankin
"There is a dreamlike quality to 's sense of causality and connection. The detectives do not solve anything, and the book's mystery is not the crime with which it begins but the lives that hold it together. It is not the closing of any case that preoccupies the book but the perpetual openness and irresolution of all cases, all identities. That is its punch, its poetry." The Guardian
"This is a mystery novel unlike any you've ever read. It's also a great one to start with if you're usually not a mystery reader. Its strangeness is reminiscent of Beckett's work, and Ridgway is a masterful storyteller." Andrew Fox The Daily Beast
"Not only in its dialogue, but in its bawdy subversiveness, is a thoroughly Irish affair. Samuel Beckett and Flann O'Brien come regularly to mind, although Keith Ridgway's blend of the grotesque and the absurd is all his own. An admirably conceived work of fiction." Irish Times
" has all the moody stuff of the detective genre, but no suspects, no clues, no resolution. The novel becomes an impressionistic portrait of the London they see." Times Literary Supplement
A mind-blowing adventure into a literary fourth dimension: part noir, part London snapshot, all unsettlingly amazing
Hawthorn and Child are mid-ranking detectives tasked with finding significance in the scattered facts. They appear and disappear in the fragments of this book along with a ghost car, a crime boss, a pick-pocket, a dead racing driver and a pack of wolves. The mysteries are everywhere, but the biggest of all is our mysterious compulsion to solve them.
Hawthorn and his partner, Child, are called to the scene of a mysterious shooting in North London. The only witness is unreliable, the clues are scarce, and the victim, a young man who lives nearby, swears he was shot by a ghost car. While Hawthorn battles with fatigue and strange dreams, the crime and the narrative slip from his grasp and the stories of other Londoners take over: a young pickpocket on the run from his boss; an editor in possession of a disturbing manuscript; a teenage girl who spends her days at the Tate Modern; a pack of wolves; and a madman who has been infected by the former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Haunting these disparate lives is the shadowy figure of Mishazzo, an elusive crime magnate who may be running the city, or may not exist at all.
About the Author
Keith Ridgway is a Dubliner and the author of the award-winning novels The Long Falling, The Parts, and Animals, as well as the collection of stories Standard Time and novella Horses. He lived in North London for eleven years. He now lives somewhere else.