I've discussed a couple of Jacqueline Wilson's taut psychological thrillers on this blog in the past - the fairly distant past, admittedly. She made a splash in the 70s as a crime novelist before turning with huge success to children's fiction. I was impressed with her books when they came out and, although inevitably dated, they still show what a readable writer she has always been.
I've only just come across her fifth and final crime novel, Making Hate. Her earlier books were published in paperback by Penguin, but I'm not sure that this one was - certainly I've found it elusive. And now I've read it, I wonder if I have a clearer idea of why she gave up the genre. This is without doubt an admirably ambitious book, and again it's a good, fluent read, but it's also rather flawed.
She decided to tackle a story about a rapist, and to present it from two contrasting viewpoints. The main character is Simon Shaw, a divorced man in his thirties who has two children but is much closer to his daughter than his son. He works as civilian SOCO and fantasises about being a detective. He's lacking confidence, but when he picks up a pretty young girl, he doesn't seem to take any interest in how old she is. After they part, she is raped. It turns out that she is only fourteen and Simon is briefly a suspect.
Simon is cleared, but wants to bring the rapist to justice. Meanwhile, we are given an insight into the rapist's psyche in a series of short sections which reveal his troubled upbringing. Wilson is aiming here for psychological depth, but overall I felt that her attempts to get into the minds of Simon and the rapist weren't successful. This is an uncomfortable book for a number of reasons, and I can see why it made little impact. Yet I remain of the view that even a flawed book of the past may be of great interest if the author is trying to do something worthwhile and inventive with the story, and Making Hate fits the bill. It's no masterpiece, but you can tell that Wilson, even more than forty years ago, was a storyteller of high calibre.
Good to see you covering Jacqueline Wilson's crime novels, Martin. I am lucky enough to have all 5 in my collection. Martyn
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