I been reading Maggie Gee’s novels for longer than this blog has existed (12 years and counting now!). They’re clever, sassy and always have an unexpected angle. I couldn’t wait to see what she’d do with a crime novel.
Who done it? Why done it? Where done it? How done it? Actually all questions easily answered. I didn’t even feel sorry for the victim. A sadistic dentist and a brutal father who had it coming. Such was his brutality that his adult children, all of whom have flown the nest, remain traumatised. Monica, in particular.
Monica Ludd is 38 years old, 6 foot tall, weighs 17 stone, and is the acting deputy head teacher at her school. She describes herself as “monstrous Mon”. Enraged at her father’s failure to attend their brother’s memorial (especially as she blames her father for Fred’s death), she storms over to his place with the biggest, heaviest axe she can find ….
… which, of course, makes her prime suspect, when her father’s battered body is found. And that’s when the shenanigans begin. Especially with Ginger, the detective whose behaviour almost raised my eyebrows into orbit! Notwithstanding, Monica goes on the run, finds a bolt hole in one of her father’s properties, a big gothic mansion.
Cue, creaking floorboards, night terrors and Monica’s confrontation with the ghosts from her past.
It’s all very carry on, yet there is a serious undercurrent. Gee is definitely playing this for laughs and I felt the glee in her pen. Yet at its core, Blood is an examination of family and the legacy of domestic violence. Monica, despite her Amazonian stature and nature, lacks self-esteem. Her crude and vulgar front collapses into an almost plaintive melancholy when she’s speaking to herself. (And how could it not, when her mother casually reminds her that she was the one her father hated.) Her surviving siblings, two high-functioning but autistic brothers and her younger, slim, pretty model sister, Fairy, have been affected differently, with Fairy seemingly doomed to repeating the role of victim.
This circle of violence is mirrored in the recent political past. Fred Ludd was killed in Afghanistan. The consequences of that war on terrorism and the one following in Iraq leadng to the horrors of ISIS, that to the migrant crisis and that, some would argue, to the vote for Brexit. The Ludds live in Thanet, Kent. Brexitland. The front line, affected by all of this. Reaping what has been sown. Including a terrorist incident at Monica’s school, in which Monica redeems herself, albeit in comic fashion.
It would be too much to expect a solution to our political woes, but Gee does offer a way forward for the Ludds. Drastic measures. Definitely illegal. Raising the question, does the end justify the means? As I mentioned at the start, Maggie Gee does crime … and while it’s designed to make you laugh, it will also make you think.