"Household Words"

by Richard Boston

[from Punch, 16 September 1981]

. . . Graham Swift . . . is concerned more with psychological detection. Prentis, the narrator, works in a hush-hush police department concerned with looking after the files on"dead crimes." While he keeps these in meticulous order, his private life a manifestly a mess. He is cool to his wife, and his relationship with his two sons is one of mutual dislike. At the same time his father, a war time hero, is in a mental hospital in a state of catatonic speechlessness. And at work certain files have gone missing -- files which could have something to do with his father's war record. Was Dad really the hero he appeared to the world? What actually happened when he as interrogated by the SS? Did he talk? Is that why he can't talk now? Is that why Prentis can't talk to his own children? An who is it that is removing the possibly incriminating files from the police archives?

The connections between Prentis's professional and personal lives are delineated with great skill, and the quality of writing is consistently high. The result is one that should appeal equally to readers of "straight" novels and to readers of thrillers. School of Simenon, I suppose. Good school, good pupil.

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