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Book review: TV host Norton pens thoughtful mystery

Graham Norton’s “Holding” nearly qualifies as a cozy mystery, just a bit darker than most. It takes place in a small Irish village where anything of great interest rarely happens. The residents live quiet, peaceful lives, which is just what Sgt.

P.J. Collins was looking for when he requested an assignment as the only member of the police force of Duneen. P.J. is not very good with people.

Puberty was not kind to him–the combination of a growing appetite and lack of activity took him down the road to obesity. “Looking back, he could see that he had hidden behind his size and used it as an excuse so he didn’t have to compete in all the trials of adolescence.” This avoidance continued into his adulthood, his first assignment with a large police force in a big city a very bad fit. He’s been in Duneen for years and never had to solve a crime, so spent his time primarily issuing tickets.

That all comes to a halt when a construction crew finds the remains of a body during excavation. For the very first time after years with the police, P.J. has to secure what could be a crime scene and he’s terrified he’ll make a mistake. A bit of panic sets in when he realizes he actually has to investigate, and actually get to know and interview the residents of Duneen.

Norton does a marvelous job of bringing the main characters to life: the Ross girls, Florence, Evelyn and Abigail, all unmarried, who have lived in their family home all their lives; Mrs. Meany, P.J.’s housekeeper; Detective Linus Dunne, who arrives to assist with the investigation; and Brid and Anthony Riordan, whose marriage isn’t quite what the village thinks. The discovery of the remains opens all kinds of past conflicts, heartbreak, anger and uncertainty.

Norton tells the tale with empathy, charm and occasional glimpses of the humor he is so well-known for.

The well-structured yet simple story unfolds at a comfortable pace as P.J. becomes more comfortable with questioning the residents and the truth eventually comes out.

The characters and the landscape are beautifully described in this thoughtful, very enjoyable novel.

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