Zaffre | 2017 (ebook: 4 May; Pb: 15 June) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book
It’s not your typical situation and neither is Charlie Priest your usual lawyer. When Charlie is asked by wealthy entrepreneur Kenneth Ellinder and his daughter Jessica to investigate the horrifically brutal murder of Ellinder’s son Miles, Charlie can’t help thinking that the death might be his fault. The night before, Miles had violently attacked Charlie in his own home, prepared to kill him for something he believed to be in Charlie’s possession. Charlie had nothing to give him and now the man is dead and the manner of his death is a clear warning of what is to come. Shortly afterwards Charlie’s godfather, Attorney General Sir Philip Wren hangs himself, leaving a note addressed to Charlie. And then it’s discovered that Sir Philip’s daughter Hayley is missing. Suddenly the hanging looks less like suicide and Charlie is caught in something that is spiralling out of control.
And this is all at the beginning of this wonderful novel, The Mayfly. The plot that follows is brilliantly clever and complex. More than that, it is extremely tense, with a grip of iron. But what holds it all together is the fabulous and captivating character of Charlie Priest. This is a man who caught my attention from the very beginning and the more I learned about him, the more I loved him. He has a medical disorder that makes him stand out from other people but he also stands out for his extraordinary family background. I’ll say nothing about this except to say that it is brilliantly handled. Charlie is a man we want to get to know. He is deeply interesting. This is a novel that delves deeply into character and motivation.
Charlie isn’t the only draw in The Mayfly – his associate, lawyer Georgie Someday, is utterly adorable and keenly intelligent. Charlie’s other associate, ‘Solly’ Solomon is also a favourite of mine and I love how Charlie deals with him. The three make up the most marvellous and strangest of teams and, as a result, The Mayfly stands out on a crowded crime fiction shelf.
The Mayfly takes us to some dark and dreadful places. The gory horror of the deaths isn’t easy to read but it isn’t gratuitously done. This is a story and a crime with its roots in the Holocaust and that is not a subject to be treated lightly. The evil from those days might survive in elements of this novel but so too does the determined pursuit for justice of good men and women.
James Hazel writes so well. This book might be dark in places but it is also witty and full of heart, compensating to some measure for its violence and the sheer evil of its villains. It’s an exciting book, packed with intrigue, and the pace is matched by the quality of the plot. The Mayfly launches a new series and I am hooked.