THE TWILIGHT TIME - Karen Campbell
THE TWILIGHT TIME is the debut novel from ex-cop Karen Campbell - featuring Sergeant Anna Cameron as the central character. In 2009 Campbell won Best New Scottish Writer at the Scottish Variety Awards, and there is now a second book out: After the Fire, which switches the viewpoint to two characters from the first book - Jamie and his wife Cath.
But THE TWILIGHT TIME is a book that was recommended to me by somebody whose preferences I follow closely, and coincidentally was nominated as a discussion book on one of my email lists, so it was with some pleasurable anticipation that it was shunted up the To Be Read list.
When Anna Cameron is bought into a local station as part of an active policing unit there's some disquiet around the place - she's mostly been a head office / policy sort of police officer before this and nobody's all that convinced about her ability to take over and run a unit. Fragile emotionally after Jamie dumped her anyway, discovering that she'll be working with him puts her under increased (self-imposed) strain, and when she finds that there is active resentment against her from other members of the squad, she starts to fall apart. Becoming obsessed with the murder of Ezra, a frail, old Polish man doesn't help her cause with anybody - especially as it isn't one of her own cases. When she is injured in the chase for a man who has been carving up the faces of prostitutes, Anna doesn't cope at all well when Jamie's wife Cath (an ex-cop in her own right, with a very bad case of post-natal depression), reaches out to her, having known Ezra as well.
There's a hefty dose of angst, personal instability, depression, obsession, resentment, dislike, mistrust, lack of understanding, and selfishness in just about everybody in THE TWILIGHT TIME. To the point where it can be very off-putting. It's not often that you read a book and come out of it realising that there was a point in the narrative where you'd have cheerfully slapped just about every character. As somebody commented in the discussion we had about the book - there is a fine line between tough and obnoxious and some readers may choose to believe that Anna is tough - and others will be voting obnoxious. Personally I'm not adverse to a flawed central character, and I liked that Anna wasn't perfect and that there were signs of redeeming factors, although I will admit in THE TWILIGHT TIME there were too many flaws in too many of the characters. Having said that, I like characters that aren't too perfect and screw up and have bad days and are a bit grumpy and a bit stupid and occasionally daft as a brush, but stick with things, and care about something - and I really liked the way that Anna and Cath both cared about what happened to a lonely old man.
In terms of plot - there were some good touches, with the mystery of the death of Ezra, and what seems to be, on the face of it a racist plot, quite interesting. It was also touching to be reminded that an old man could die, alone and mostly unforgotten and unremarked on. The other case that is being pursued by Anna's team is the carving up of prostitute's faces. This is resolved reasonably well, although at points it does seem to disappear into all the personal stuff a little, and in both investigations there were a few procedural twists and turns that didn't make a lot of sense. This is a debut book however, and sometimes they can have some flaws. The question really is would reading THE TWILIGHT TIME make me want to pick up the second book and it certainly did that.
Anna Cameron is a new Sergeant in the Flexi Unit. On her first day in the new job she discovers she'll be working with her ex, Jamie, now married and with a child. In at the deep end emotionally after many years without him, she's also plunged headlong into the underworld of Glasgow's notorious Drag - the haunt of working girls, drug dealers and sad, seedy men. Someone is carving up the faces of local prostitutes, an old man has been brutally killed and racist violence is on the rise; Anna must deal with all this alongside tensions and backstabbing within her own team.