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Saturday, November 1, 2014


5 stars out of 5

Normally, I hate reading the book after I've seen the movie or TV show (in fact, I could count the number of times I've done that on the fingers of one hand and have four left over). This one, then, is quite the exception - but it's with good reason. I started watching the Fox Broadcasting TV show "Gracepoint" from the beginning - it's an adaptation of the popular BBC show "Broadchurch." But by the third episode of the American version, I was more than a little confused about who's who and what's what. And then, I spotted this book.

Correct me if I've got it wrong, but I believe the book  is a novelization of the BBC series rather than a book on which the series is based. Still, I decided to give it a try, hoping to get my head more clearly around the Fox series (I'm now recording the episodes). The book does read a bit like a screenplay, and of course I'm now visualizing the TV characters as I read rather than conjuring up my own idea of what they look like (which I hate, BTW - one of the reasons I always read the book first). Also for the record, the very capable actor David Tennant stars in both versions of the TV productions - and I probably couldn't conjure up anyone better suited for the role.

For those who haven't seen either TV show, the setting is the small-ish British town of Broadchurch. Detective Ellie Miller has returned from a much-needed vacation, thinking she'll be returning to a new, better position within the department. But that's not to be; instead, an outsider with a questionable past, Alec Hardy,  has been given the job instead, putting her under his command. On top of that insult, his attitude toward her is at best aloof, and at worst downright rude. 

But before she can sort it out, an 11-year old boy, Danny Latimer, is found on the beach. At first, it appears to be a suicide - he's jumped from the high cliffs above - but a closer look reveals that it's murder. Not only is it a travesty never before experienced in this on-the-sea town, it hits close to home for both Miller and Hardy; the boy was close friends with Miller's own son. For Hardy, it brings back uncomfortable memories of a similar case that drove him from his previous job to this sleepy, rather sheltered community.

Fairly early on, it becomes clear that the murderer is someone close to the boy - someone very well known to everyone involved including Miller and her family as well as Danny's. As the plot unfolds, plenty of secrets are revealed, and relationships become strained. And throughout, everyone involved - including readers - knows that once the killer is identified, nothing will ever be the same. Readers are left guessing

The book is outstanding despite being written in the present tense - of which I'm not particularly fond. It also provided what I need to watch the rest of the series and fully understand what's going on. That said, I'm not sure I'll bother returning to the series now even though it's very well done (personally, I'm not sure whether my uncertainty is a plus or a minus, but I am sure which side of the issue the TV producers and advertisers will be on).

Also happily, I've found a new (to me) author: Kelly. She's written at least three other mysteries that garnered decent reviews and sound interesting, and after sampling this one, I'm more than willing to try another. Her co-author, Chris Chibnall, is an English playwright, TV writer and producer perhaps best known for work on the science fiction series, "Doctor Who."

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly and Chris Chibnall (Minotaur Books, September 2014); 449 pp.

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