What’s it about?
An old lady dies alone in a freezing Edinburgh flat, leaving behind no indication of who she is. Margaret Penny arrives in Edinburgh with hardly anything but a stolen coat and an unsuitable pair of shoes. She finds a job at the Office for Lost People and is tasked with finding out who this old lady was.
The premise of this book is good. The ideas behind the story are good. The execution, however, is circuitous and laboured, bordering on dreadful. When I finished this book, I chucked it on the floor, muttering “what a load of old tosh!” Believe me, these are not words I say lightly.
There is a strange balance here of too much detail but at the same time, not enough. Everyone has a back story but there isn’t enough substance to them to allow for easy delineation between the characters nor for the reader to actually care what happens to them. At the same time, there is so much stuff in this book that I felt like what everyone needed was a roll of bin liners and a bottle of bleach. Why are there so many twins? Why have they all had their picture taken? What on earth is with all the Christian brazil nuts? Do I care?
I think this book needs a good edit, and the author needs to save some ideas for the next one. It’s pretty clear that she’s an avid reader herself- I detected Kate Atkinson, PD James, maybe some Ian Rankin- but she needs to find her own voice and not borrow others’.
Would I recommend it?
No. I don’t think I would. Sorry.
The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis is published by Picador, priced £7.99