I mentioned on Monday my delight at a very positive review of The Hanging Wood in The Times. I'm equally pleased with a very generous review of the book in The Literary Review. And again it's gratifying that the reviewer, Jessica Mann, is, like Marcel Berlins of The Times, one of the genre's most thoughtful critics. And fascinating – at least to me – that they make very similar points.
This review, which says the book is "an excellent example of the traditional British whodunnit", and is "interesting and enjoyable", makes the point that the story "has all the ingredients: an attractive setting, a dysfunctional posh family and ingenious murder methods, with the violence taking place off-stage."
There is no denying that some of those who die in The Hanging Wood meet their end in a very gruesome ways. There are reasons for this, connected with the nature of the storyline, but I didn't have any wish, when I was writing the book, to salivate over the unpleasantness of what happens. There are certainly some books where graphic descriptions of acts of violence are absolutely necessary, and key to the integrity of the story, but there are other books where, it may be argued, the gore is over-done. Each author has to decide what approach to take, and I don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" approach that can be easily defined. In the end, much is bound to depend on the personal taste of the author and reader.
Is it old-fashioned to write the way I do? I agree with Marcel Berlins that it isn't, and I like to think the books like mine, although written in the detective novel tradition, have plenty to say about contemporary life. But in any event, you can only really write in a way that suits you – chasing after fashion in fiction may work occasionally, but not very often. So I really am heartened when intelligent critics with high standards are sympathetic to my books. Even without reviews, I'd keep on writing, but there is no doubt that the hugely positive reaction to my last novel is helping to motivate me with the follow-up.