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‘All the Lonely People’: a review

October 27, 2013

Martin Edwards, author of the popular Lake District Mysteries, began his career as a crime novelist with a very different series.  A Liverpool-based lawyer himself, his debut novel, ‘All the Lonely People’ (1991), introduced another Liverpool lawyer, Harry Devlin, who would feature most entertainingly in a further seven novels of sleuthing.

‘All the Lonely People’ was republished last year by Arcturus in their Crime Classics series; it was this paperback edition I read on my recent Cornish holiday.  The novel (along with several other Harry Devlins) is also out as an ebook published by Andrews UK.

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Harry has never stopped loving his wife Liz, who left him for another man, a local villain, one winter’s evening two years ago.  He has never stopped hoping that one day she’ll come home.  And on his thirty-second birthday she does just that. 

Returning to his third-floor riverside flat after working late, Harry finds Liz curled in his armchair, watching television.  She’s as hypnotically alluring as ever and hope flares, only to be instantly dashed.  Yes, she’s dumped her brutish boyfriend, Mick Coghlan, but she’s met someone else.  She believes Coghlan knows and wants her dead.  She needs to hide; would Harry put her up for a day or two?  He agrees though he believes she’s just being melodramatic as usual.

When Liz is stabbed to death in an alleyway the following night, Harry becomes the prime suspect.

How can it be that his lovely, infuriating wife is gone forever?  As he grapples with the unbelievable, guilt-stricken over his failure to take her fears seriously and protect her, frustrated with the police, Harry sets out to find her killer.

It’s a search that will take him deep into the murky side of his beloved Liverpool, where wretchedness and criminality abound; a search in which he will make disturbing discoveries about Liz and find himself up against a ruthless foe who’ll stop at nothing to prevent the truth about her murder getting out.

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In ‘All the Lonely People’, Edwards has combined the traditional whodunnit with urban noir in a pacy, suspenseful, utterly riveting crime thriller.  Harry is a great character, a streetwise, love-bruised solicitor, who is quite unstoppable in pursuit of justice.  His low-life Liverpool is so well drawn we have the reek of moral decay in our nostrils and prickle with fear.

Edwards’ down-to-earth, direct style perfectly suits his well-plotted story and draws the reader in so strongly it’s easy to overlook how accomplished the writing is.  This is a dark tale, true, but never a depressing one, because even in distress Harry is a witty guy.

The incredible thing is that ‘All the Lonely People’ is not the work of a seasoned master but Martin Edwards’ debut novel from twenty-two years ago, a novel now fully deserving its place as an Arcturus Crime Classic.

Highly recommended.

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Copyright © Paul Beech 2013

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2 Comments
  1. what lovely thoughts and poems. I just woke up after a night eating chocolates which I regret more than a bottle of wine. I have moved from four years in the Arctic North, in the Highlands of Scotland, split from my 25 year marriage and came to the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales. I saw a great black cat rather like a panther two days ago and this is what lead me to your site as I googled it to see whether anyone else had seen it and your site came up. After feeling too greedy with the chocolates I fell asleep and never got to read your site, until I woke this morning and was greeted with your lovely words. Unfortunately I have not got time this morning to read them all but I will be back. Thank you for your memories of your parents. and the blackberry pickers. I will be back. I lost the page I was on where you have a story about the panther but I will look later. 🙂 Jackie

    • Jackie,

      So pleased you’ve found me here and like my site. I love Anglesey and hope you do too – despite your recent big cat sighting! You’ll find my account, ‘The Lligwy Panther’, under the heading ‘True Stories’. Maybe you could pop a comment on about your sighting; I’d be interested to know more. Are the police mounting a search or posting warning notices?

      Do call back soon – you’re most welcome.

      Paul

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