Tuesday 28 July 2015

THE PRODIGAL by Nicky Black

5 out of 5 stars

Gritty crime drama

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE

About half way through this book I discovered that Nicky Black is actually a combination of two friends called Nicky and Julie ~ Julie originally wrote this as a screenplay for Granada TV, though it was never shown, and then she passed it to Nicky to turn it into a novel.  Shame it never became a TV series, it would have been terrific!

Nicky might have been given a readymade, extremely good plot to work with, but the writing of this novel is surely down to her own skill - in the wrong hands it could have been flat, clich├ęd, the characters ghastly stereotypes, the action tired, etc etc.  The Prodigal is none of those things - it's excellent, I enjoyed every page and didn't skip read once!

London cop Lee Jamieson returns home to Newcastle, and becomes mixed up with Nicola Kelly, wife of local hoodlum Micky.  The story is told through the eyes of Lee and Nicola.  Lee also gets to know Louise, his teenage daughter who is the result of his own teenage relationship with her mother, Debbie.  Valley Park, the council estate around which the novel centres, is fictional, but I am sure it's a well drawn representation of those that exist.

Lee escaped life within the underclass of society after his own family tragedies; there is one particularly emotive passage when he looks into the eyes of Nicola's troubled young brother, Mark, and sees what he might have become had he stayed there.

One of the reasons this novel was of interest to me is that I moved up to live in this area (nowhere like Valley Park, thank goodness!) about six years ago, so I recognised not only the landmarks but also the language; I've always been amused by the sound of teenage girls referring to each other as 'man'!  I liked the way the story outlined the differences between the north and south of England that really do exist, and the futility of the regeneration projects in poor areas - as Nicola so rightly points out, it's not the houses or estates that are the problem, but the people who live in them.

The plot's great - I love a bit of gangster conspiracy, and it all fits together nicely, with the twists not being too obvious and nothing unfeasible taking place.  Any negatives?  Only one - throughout the book there is a fair amount of 'head-hopping', ie, the point of view changing suddenly; I'd think, hang on, I thought I was reading through Lee's eyes, but suddenly I'm seeing it through those of Debbie.  This isn't too obtrusive, though, and it probably wouldn't bother most people.

The Prodigal is realistic without being over the top, perfectly paced and held my interest throughout - loved it!


  1. This sounds right up my crime loving street T! Excellent review and I'm sticking it on my Pinterest TBR right now - thanks :-)

  2. One to add to my TBR list I think, Terry. Thanks