I hadn’t thought that the letter Y would be so difficult.Maybe its proximity to X, the most difficult letter of them all, lulled me into a false sense of security.
I did have a book lined up: Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurardottir. I’d read some positive reports, and I saw some potential in the opening chapters, but when I find characters telling each other how dark, how horrific, how bloody a murder was early in a book it is inevitable that I will decide that I don’t want to know any more.
When I looked to my own bookshelves I could find just one novel that might fit: Desiring Cairo by Louisa Young. I liked the first few chapters, but it seemed to be a novel with a little crime rather than a piece of crime fiction. And I put it down one night and couldn’t find it the next morning. I took that as a sign that this wasn’t the book.
I checked through a few anthologies to see if I could find a good short story, but I found nothing. Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L Sayers all let me down!
And so it was time to go to the library. I could find nothing on the crime fiction shelves, not one Y author or one Y book. There was a crime novel with a title beginning with the word You on a paperback carousel, but the plot looked so ludicrous that I didn’t even consider it.
I found two titles by Margaret Yorke on the large print shelves. They looked readable but I wasn’t inspired, and so I moved on to look at volumes of short stories.
But then I spotted a copy ofThe Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets. I’ve read it, and I do have a copy of my own, but I have no idea where it is. And I found that Sophie Hannah had written my Y story.
I must admit that it hadn’t stood out when I read it alongside the others in the book, but when I read it again I realised that it was rather good.
“YOU ARE A GONGEDIP !”
What a thing to have shouted at you!
An insult from a secret language devised by childhood friends. A language that they continued to use at university. And even when they met up in later years.
It wasn’t something that William, expected to hear as he worked at home on a new edition of a dictionary of rhymes.
A young woman was shouting at him from the street. A young woman who worked for his publisher, in some very junior capacity. A young woman he’d had a brief relationship with, and then moved on without a second thought.
She had picked up the secret language on a night out with William and his friends, and she was going to use it.
Shouted insults were only the start – there was far more to her plan than that.
This was the story that proved that revenge is a dish best served cold.
Sophie Hannah took a simple idea, executed it nicely, with well drawn characters, with sharp dialogue, and with the same intelligence, the same contemporary touches that she brings to her novels.
And a wicked twist in the tale fitted absolutely perfectly.
I can say no more!
The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.
“Each week, beginning Monday 10 January 2011, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”
Next week the alphabet ends – Z is for … ?