by Nicky Black
Exiled from his beloved Newcastle sixteen years ago, Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson is returning home in search of the teenage daughter he’s never met. With a good promotion under his belt and his parents gone, he’s ready to return to his roots and the warm Geordie spirit he has missed so much.
Much to his surprise, his first assignment is in Valley Park, a forgotten sink estate and home to some of the worst social deprivation in the country – the estate where he grew up, and where Nicola Kelly, the wife of a renowned local villain, calls home.
As Lee and Nicola’s lives become entwined through a series of dramatic events, they fall in love and embark on a dangerous affair that will change both of their lives forever. Nicola’s husband, Micky, has few scruples, and, as he feels her slipping away, tightens his grip on her affections.
In order for Lee and Nicola to be together, Micky Kelly has to go.
D.S. Lee Jamieson moves from London back to Newcastle, and specifically Valley Park, his place of birth. He has a new job trying to turn around the Valley Park Estate, from the crime-ridden, drug-infested, violent place it has become into somewhere people will want to live. Unfortunately there is no relationship between the residents and the police and the worst crime to commit, is not being a drug-dealer or a murderer, but being a grass: lee has his work cut out.
He also wants to find the teenage daughter that he has never met and hopefully forge some kind of a relationship with her.
Early on in the story Lee meets Nicola Kelly, the wife of local hard-man, Micky Kelly, and the two are attracted to each other. The problem is if Micky finds out they’ll both be dead.
The idea behind this book was originally a screenplay that never saw the light of day, so between two friends they turned it into this novel, and what a fantastic job they have done. This is gritty, realistic drama at its best. The writing is fresh and lively, the dialogue, natural. The story itself takes you on a journey through desperate people’s lives, all of them know nothing else but violence, poverty, hopelessness. You live their lives and want nothing more than to get away and drag the likes of Nicola, Margy, Mark and their kids, along with you.
Micky Kelly is a triumph of characterisation, he could have ended up a stereotype of the big hard man with no redeeming qualities; instead he comes across as a man dominated by his circumstances and emotionally crippled, a man you want to detest, yet somehow can’t.
I loved Nicola, the strength of the woman comes across in everything she does. trying to do the best for her own kids and having to look after her brother and his family as well. The scenes in the refuge with other women with no hope were heartbreaking.
Whilst this book is a sad story of deprivation and violence, there is also an upside with lots of native humour, coming chiefly from a fantastic character called Margy, who tries to look out for the interests of the residents and is Nicola’s best friend. I love the local dialogue, it gives such an authentic feel to the book.
If you like crime thrillers you’ll love this book. I am a fairly slow reader but managed to finish this in just over a day. It is fast-paced, gritty and realistic. But it is also human and heartbreaking.
Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy.