Frank Allcroft, the central character in this novel by Catherine O’Flynn, is a local celebrity. He can be seen on television every evening presenting the regional news – or ‘the news where you are’. Amongst the never-ending stream of missing dogs, charity fundraisers and other typical ‘local news’ reports, there’s the occasional item that affects Frank more deeply. These tend to be the stories that deal with deaths and disappearances: the stories about old people found dead in their own homes with nobody having noticed that they were missing. To ensure that their deaths don’t go unnoticed, Frank has started leaving flowers outside their houses and attending their funerals – where he is often one of the only mourners.
There are many important people in Frank’s life, including his depressed elderly mother Maureen, his ambitious co-presenter Julia, his wife Andrea and their little girl, Mo. But equally important are the people who are no longer there: Frank’s friend and fellow TV presenter, Phil Smethway, for example, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident. And his father, Douglas, an architect who died when Frank was young and whose buildings are now being demolished one by one.
This book addresses lots of interesting issues – coping with ageing, adjusting to change and progress, the pressures of being a celebrity – but overall it was a bit too slow for me. The problem I had was that the first 100 pages just felt like a very long introduction to the characters, with no real plot to speak of. Eventually, a mystery began to emerge when Frank decided to investigate the connection between Phil Smethway’s death and the death of one of Phil’s old friends, Michael Church, and at this point I started to find the story more compelling. So, as long as you’re not expecting something fast-paced and thrilling this is an enjoyable enough book with likeable characters (I particularly loved Mo). I did really like the way Catherine O’Flynn writes and am looking forward to reading What Was Lost, which I’ve heard is better than this one.