The Prodigal by Nicky Black

The idea for this book was originally commissioned as a two part tv drama but it never made it to screen. To be honest, it is unlikely I would have watched it as it would probably have been too violent for me. But as a novel, although it’s  much darker that I would normally read, I thought it was excellent.

Lee is the Prodigal of the title, a policeman returning to his native Newcastle to sort out the problems on the Valley Park estate. Valley Park sounds like it should be a lovely place to stay but is rife with drugs, violence, theft and other major crimes. No-one wants to stay if they can help it. This is where Lee grew up, the place he turned his back on and the place he sees has deteriorated even in the time he has been away. He sees and is attracted to Nicola in one of the early scenes where a night at the pub turns violent. Slight problem is that she is married to one of the toughest men on the estate, Micky Kelly!

I found myself feeling quite sad at the thought that people live this way, where domestic violence is commonplace, where children swearing and being sworn at is not unusual and where no-one bothers to report crime because what’s the point? There are socially deprived communities like this not far from probably everyone who reads the book. But what Nicky Black was really good at in this book was showing that there is hope for such places. Nicola’s good friend Margie was a tough woman but she was very vocal in standing up for the rights of the people to have decent places to live and a chance to live a life free from fear. Nicola was a character I really cared about. She was in a seemingly hopeless situation with a violent husband, drugs surrounding her family and affecting it in tragic ways and no chance to better herself. And yet, she found the courage to try to make life better for herself and her children and have a chance at happiness again.

Even the really awful characters showed some positive character traits: a fierce loyalty to family, though often shown in strange ways, a protective love for their children, respect for others in their criminal world, although precious little for the police or authority. Nicky Black created a real sense of humanity in her characters.

The Prodigal was a really fast paced novel with lots of dramatic events and lots of twists. For all its bleakness and the hopelessness felt by some characters, it was very well written, a real page turner and perhaps surprisingly for a thriller, quite a moving read.

My thanks to the author for giving me copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The Prodigal was published on 2 July and you can buy a copy here: The Prodigal

What the book is about:

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.

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