This enthralling mystery tale follows the path of a journalist Stuart who discovers that his former lover, Helen Mably, has gone missing in suspicious circumstances.
Readers quickly discover that Helen is a complex character, who is very bright but has always been slightly off the rails and sexually promiscuous. The main thread of the book centres around her dysfunctional relationship with her father — a former police inspector called David — and her apparent desire to humiliate him and get revenge for a past event; namely, when she was sexually assaulted by three policemen at the age of 17 — a crime which her father then ‘covered up’ so as to protect her from a public court case and intrusive press.
A few months before Helen ‘disappears’, she reveals to her father the first 30 pages of a journal she has written, which hints at the assault and reveals intimate details of her many sexual encounters. Stuart then has to decide whether David is telling the truth about his reasons for keeping the assault secret or whether he has more to hide. Is it the case that the Inspector loves his police force and his colleagues more than his daughter, and will do anything to protect them? Or has Helen faked her disappearance and is simply trying to frame him?
Readers will find the book engrossing and entertaining and will enjoy the character traits developed by the author.The telling of the back story, namely Helen’s early and adolescent life, is also excellent. Much of this revolves around her father ‘dumping’ her in a social club full of “salt of the earth” policeman, where she would play snooker in tight tops and skirts and draw the attention of the men who subsequently went on to assault her.
It also builds upon the differences between Helen and her father and how she rebels against her upbringing.
David, for instance, is described as a “stickler for rules and regulations”, a man who would always be “immaculate in his uniform, highly polished black brogues, heavily starched shirt and perfectly knotted tie”.
Helen, on the other hand, is said to be “lovely and bright”, attending a girl’s grammar school and winning a place at Cambridge, but a person who resents having her life mapped out for her.
This rebellion frequently manifests in promiscuous behaviour, which the book highlights in many scenes, such as when she is waving the hem of her short summer dress around “like an accomplished flamenco dancer” while not wearing any knickers. She is described as both being a provocative tease and having Machiavellian flair.
Importantly, the dad daughter relationship and its early destruction is central to the book. David knows he has let Helen down and, more fundamentally, knows that she has never forgiven him. In turn, Helen has what her psychologist calls a ‘fixation’ with her father, or is it, perhaps, an obsession?
This is a dark, psychological tale of a disturbed woman seeking justice and revenge, but who only finds betrayal. It asks the question, is everyone on Helen’s side, or no one? Read it to find out.
A Boneless Kiss: Letters From A Dead Heart by Gerald Wixey is available now in Kindle format, priced £1.69. For more information, visit www.geraldwixey.co.uk
But while this is happening, there are also two other events Stuart has to grapple with and establish the truth about.
First, there is the death of a mechanic, killed by a five-ton truck which crashes down on him in a “dreadful accident”.
A few weeks later, Stuart’s best friend disappeared — and Stuart is convinced somehow that the two events are connected.This was 12 years ago, at the same time that Stuart’s uncle was having a tragic love affair with a lady named Shirley, Kathy’s mother-in-law.
But now, as Stuart is himself falling in love with married Kathy, a chance encounter with the dead mechanic’s wife confirms the incidents were indeed linked in some way and that all is not well.
There are further twists and turns, namely that his lover Kathy is the sister of his missing friend. Her husband is also someone Stuart has a terrible relationship with and, worse still, knows of his wife’s affair, and also a bit too much about those confusing past events. It doesn’t take long for Stuart to realise his liaison is more dangerous than he thinks.There is no doubt that Salt of Their Blood is a gripping page turner, with enough blood, guts, mystery and sex to keep readers captivated. It takes a few chapters to get into it, and understand just who is related to who, how they are connected and why they’re important, but as soon as the major loose ends and characters are in place, it’s a fast, enjoyable read.
A key selling point is the prose. From the first brilliant line: “I heard someone die,” the author excels at creating mood, atmosphere and a great sense of place.Great lines include: “The frost clung on, hard enough to bind the car park gravel into small knots,” and “A nasty wind sighed across the allotments”. He also expertly uses evocative aromas and plants — “honeysuckle and cut grass” — to draw the reader in. Places are incredibly well described, as too are characters, particularly Stuart on his lazy summer holidays as a child. Salt Of Their Blood is a great read about a dark love affair that will make readers cry, gasp out loud in surprise but mainly want to know more about what happened in that small 1960s town.
Salt Of Their Blood by Gerald Wixey (ISBN 978-1848766969) is available now, priced £7.99. For more information, visit www.geraldwixey.co.uk
A main character, as in Wixey’s previous books A Boneless Kiss and Salt of Their Blood, is Stuart, who has been a sexual voyeur since he was 12 when he watched his womanising uncle embark on an affair, with devastating consequences. He then developed an inquisitiveness that turned into a consuming passion for detective work and finding out what makes people tick. The politics of relationships is his idée fixe.
This leads to a confrontation with Chris Bruton, a “little weasel” of a man and responsible council leader with large department to run and a budget of millions, but who spends most of his time having an affair in a hotel, which Stuart documents.Then there’s Rhonda, who we meet at the start of the book. She is a runaway from Wales who ends up in Reading after having enough of her stepfather abusing her. Homeless and alone, she’s picked up by Graves, a wealthy paedophile who is actually cruising the streets and stations looking for young boys.
He takes Rhonda in, “dresses her up sharp and razors her hair short (like a boy)” then uses her to help him pick-up other children, also teaching her a few other criminal tricks along the way. Rhonda is haunted by her past, and her dysfunctional relationships with men, especially her doctor, whom she sleeps with on their fourth meeting. She’s also got something of a drug habit.
The book follows the twists and turns of affairs, conspiracies, illegal property deals and men with criminal and unsavoury interests.
At times it is difficult to know which character is the worse and who we should be cheering for — but that is also part of the charm, and plot! It’s a tightly-paced thriller which builds to a fantastic but shocking denouement. Readers will love it.
Small Town Nocturne by Gerald Wixey is available now in Kindle format, priced £1.99. For more information, visit www.geraldwixey.co.uk