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BOOK REVIEW: Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace


Following the death of his father, and an unremarkable stint on Fleet Street in London, crime journalist Edward Dunford returns to Yorkshire and a new job on the Evening Post as a junior crime correspondent. It’s two weeks before Christmas 1974 and Eddie’s first story is that of missing ten-year-old Clare Kemplay. The police are convinced it’s an isolated incidence, at least that is until her mutilate body shows up posed in a brutal parody of a fallen angel with swan wings stitched to her back.

Despite being warned off verbally by his editor, and physically by the local police department, Eddie can’t shake the feeling that there is a pattern in the disappearance of young girls and begins to dig deeper. What he uncovers is corruption at the highest levels and an unknown dark side of Yorkshire.

David Peace’s writing is heavily influence by a childhood immersed in the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, one where at times he even worried that his mother would be the next victim. It is unsurprising then that his debut novel, Nineteen Seventy-Four, should reflect the extreme violence, corruption and darkness of this haunting period of history. As Peace states in his interview with Crimetime: “Crime is brutal, harrowing and devastating for everyone involved, and crime fiction should be every bit as brutal, harrowing and devastating as the violence of the reality it seeks to document. Anything less at best sanitizes crime and its effects, at worst trivializes it.”

Similarities to George Orwell’s 1984 are found almost from the first pages of Nineteen Seventy-Four. Both novels portray a bleak landscape and dystopian society and; however unlikeable the main character, each is a naïf on a path of discovery, horror and ultimately betrayal. Nineteen Seventy-Four is the more violent novel, elucidating the warning signs we all should have heeded, while suggesting that we have only ourselves to blame for the current violent state of affairs.

Nineteen Seventy-Four is the first book in the Red Riding Quartet series, followed by Nineteen Seventy-Seven (2000), Nineteen Eighty (2001), and Nineteen Eighty-Three (2002). The Red Riding Quartet has recently been turned into a mini-series airing on UK’s Channel 4.

ISBN10: 0307455084
ISBN13: 9780307455086

Trade Paperback
320 Pages
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publication Date: February 10, 2009


posted under mystery, noir | 1 Comment »

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