Karen Campbell – THE TWILIGHT TIME
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
First Lines: ‘”Put your arm back through.” “No, darlin’, no. I got to breathe.”‘
Reviewed by Donna Moore
Karen Campbell is an ex-police officer, and that deinitely shows in THE TWILIGHT TIME, her first novel. When Sergeant Anna Cameron arrives at Glasgow’s Stewart Street police station to take charge of the Flexi Unit she shows a very confident front – composed, successful, and more than a little frosty. Her personal life, however, is anything but composed and successful. She’s having an affair with a married senior officer, she has few friends, and she discovers that a member of her new squad is an ex-lover who dumped her unceremoniously back in police training college. It’s a small squad, and the team are assigned to deal with street offences, car crime, shoplifting, and policing the prostitutes along The Drag – a stretch of Glasgow a few blocks long. Prostitutes are being viciously attacked and Anna’s team is tasked with solving the crimes – a task made much more difficult by the often suspicious and sometimes downright unhelpful nature of the victims. And, in a lot of ways, the prostitutes are right to be suspicious of the police. Several are insensitive, boorish and uncaring. In addition, Anna gets involved in the case of an elderly Polish man who is the target of racial abuse. He gets under her skin and the reader is shown the softer, more caring side to Anna’s character.
One of the strengths of the book for me is Anna’s relationships – with her ex-lover, her police colleagues, the prostitutes and the elderly Polish man. The reader is shown several facets of Anna – not all of which sit comfortably together. She’s a really interesting character – sometimes frustrating, sometimes cold, often very likeable, but above all, never dull. All the characters are very well drawn and some of them are surprisingly touching, without being cloying and melodramatic. In places the book is very dark and not for the squeamish.There are some warts-and-all examples of police procedure and after one such example I gained a new respect for the boys and girls in blue and decided that I never wanted to shake hands with one, let alone be one! Along with the darkness there are also some great touches of black humour which mean that it’s not a depressing read.
The setting is one of the best depictions of Glasgow I’ve read, and it’s shown as the schizophrenic, gritty, in-your-face, characterful city it is. On top of all that, there’s a gripping plot that is full of twists and turns. But this is not a bog standard police procedural. It’s an insight into real peoples’ lives – police, victims and criminals – who all come across in shades of grey.
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