As you know I bought 1974 when I was in search of something I actually wanted to read. My theory was that having liked The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo – which is basically a crime novel – I’d probably enjoy this. The TV adaptation of it was celebrated and so it seemed a reasonably bet that the source material was going to be good too.
My only reservations were: a) would I be happy with merely a page-turner of a crime story? b) was my stomach strong enough for what I had heard was fairly dark stuff?
The answer turned out to be yes on both counts.
1974 – set in the eponymous year, is the story of a journalist, Eddie Dunford, a crime reporter, on the Yorkshire Post. He’s recently returned from an unsucessful spell in Fleet Street and just buried his father. What seems to be a pretty ordinary missing girl case becomes far stranger when the body turns up. She’s naked, has been sexually abused in a bizarre way and has the wings of a swan stitched into her back. Then there’s the sniff of local government corruption around the sale of (what should have been) council houses, the harassment of a settlement of gypsies and the seemingly unrelated story of a man who killed himself and then his sister – the so-called ‘Ratcatcher’ – the story of which made Eddie’s name.
1974 starts slowly but soon picks up pace and then it simply does not let up. I read the first 100 pages over a couple of days but I read the remaining 200+ in a single night. Many books are said to be un-put-downable, I definitely found this one so. Peace has a slightly stylised way of writing, which once used to I liked. Although given the strange nature of some of the crimes and incidents in this book I wasn’t always sure what was going on when he mixed in the dreams and thought-life of Dunford with the ‘real’ action. It was effective though.
It was also quite a challenge. Not just for my stomach – though it was gruesome – but also because it was fairly bleak regarding human nature. If you get to the end of this book thinking there were any purely ‘good guys’ then I’d be surprised. And despite that, and despite even the slightly far-fetched explanation (which I only partly guessed – damn!) I did really enjoy this book. But I also felt the need for something lighter next. I have got the follow up, 1977 (which by all accounts is even darker) but I’m waiting a while to start it.
9/10 – dark, disturbing but very gripping