The Frank Business by Olivia Glazebrook
But Frank drops down dead at Heathrow airport and his estranged daughter, Jem, is called to identify the body. Informed he’s died of a congenital heart defect, she’s encouraged to get herself checked out. Handed his possessions, she uses his credit card to book a flight to France and then drives his car to the isolated house where she lived for the first eight years of her life.
Scrutinising his internet search history, Jem soon deduces Scott is her half brother, and only a few weeks younger than she. Convinced she must warn him about his potentially dodgy ticker, she’s the Griffiths family’s unwelcome Boxing Day guest. How will the individual members react to the shocking news and how did Kathleen’s affair with Frank come about?
In her third novel, Olivia Glazebrook deftly weaves the fortunes of these flawed characters into a right old tangle, and separates the strands with equal aplomb. There’s enough jeopardy to keep the reader on her toes, with satisfying redemption, even for the most narcissistic among them at the end. Although set at Christmas, The Frank Business would make an entertaining beach read. Thanks to publishers John Murray for my proof copy.
Blood by Maggie Gee
Monica plans a memorial party, where she’ll expose her father’s culpability. But he fails to turn up. The following morning she buys an axe and goes around to his house. Would she murder him? Monica doesn’t have the chance to find out. Albert is sprawled on the bed, unmoving, covered in blood.
When she hears the sirens approaching, Monica flees by the back door. But when the police call at her house later, she can’t easily account for her car being parked outside her father’s and the bloody axe half hidden behind the coats in her hall. She goes on the run, albeit still on home territory, colliding intermittently with her siblings, the detective and the ghosts of her past.
I had some reservations about a satire / farce about child abuse and domestic violence but, having admired and enjoyed a few of Maggie Gee’s previous novels, tackling serious issues of racism and climate catastrophe with a light touch, I thought I’d give this a try. Blood picks up in some of the themes from her memoir (at least as far as I can glean from the reviews).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the humour in this story (although I wondered if a scene where the family watch a Punch and Judy show reflected the author’s ambivalence about inviting us to laugh); nor was there much mystery in the question of who attacked Albert. But I did appreciate the climax and the not-so-subtle parallels between violence in the home and in the wider world. (The backdrop is Brexit Britain subject to a spate of terrorist attacks.) The resolution is also clever, but needs cartoon characters, which these were, to make it work.
Blood is published by Fentum Press, a small outfit with seemingly only three authors; thanks to them for my review copy.
My own short story with the same title as this novel looks at Blood from an entirely different angle.