I am both fortunate and privileged to have had an early opportunity to enjoy a reader’s copy of Scarecrow, a novel that Salt Publishing will be adding to its crime fiction list for publication in September.
Fast-paced and compelling, it is set partly in the Andalusian province of Almeria (of spaghetti western fame) and partly in England. Danny Sanchez, a bi-lingual journalist, grew up in England and left for Spain when his mentor and friend on a Hampshire local newspaper committed suicide. Danny is covering the story of a compulsory house demolition in the Almanzora Valley, an ex-pat community populated by thousands of British seekers of sun and self-built paradise. 2009 brought disaster for many of them, whose homes had been identified by the regional government as irregular constructions and who were served with demolition orders.
What the demolition unintentionally reveals leads Danny on a tortuous path of discovery, via thuggish cowboy builders and a missing teenage boy, around Almeria and back to England, as he quests for the scoop of a lifetime. Nineteen years a reporter, eleven of them in England, Danny is hard-bitten but human. The author carefully builds his personality and history, creating a very real and interesting man, skilled in his job and with an instinctive flair for managing people and ferreting out the information that he needs. The narrative moves with a Chandleresque efficiency; the dialogue is stark and often harsh, but most effective in conveying the personalities of the speakers. Pritchard has a good ear.
This is a story unusual for its very adept portrayal of the life of a reporter, especially of one whose career has been shaped by life in two countries; it has lots of graphic descriptive detail, which makes the locations and the events very real and easy to visualise, but without being over-facing or heavy-handed. It also deals brilliantly with the presentation of grotesque crimes. The author is a gifted story-teller and I expect that his future readers will find themselves immediately engaged and compelled to read and read. Matthew Pritchard is a striking new voice in Salt’s crime list and I have no hesitation in recommending Scarecrow to readers of this blog.