1940. During an intense Luftwaffe bombardment of Leeds, Captain Abraham Matthews finally corners Albie Crowe, leader of the gang of teenage thieves and black market racketeers that runs the half-deserted city.
But Abraham knows that word is out, and Albie’s loyal followers will stop at nothing to free their leader. His only chance lies in escorting his charge three miles through the Blitz and the rubble to the police station at the end of Meanwood Road. But a lot can happen in three miles.
Three Miles is that most difficult thing to pull off successfully, a second novel written in the wake of a well-received debut, with all the pressures of expectation and disruptions caused by proofreading and publicity. It’s an extremely ambitious book, and I like the exploration of the tensions between the two central characters as they vie for dominance. Moreover their shared history gives them more in common than either of them wants to acknowledge. There are parallels and divergences between the ways in which they cope with traumatic past events – Abraham’s harrowing experiences of World War One and Albie’s highly dysfunctional family background.
But occasionally I could not help feeling that overly dramatic twists in the plot (in what would already be a fraught situation) detracted a little from the core drama of the interplay between prey and predator. I was also taken aback by stray Americanisms in the Yorkshire setting, for instance ‘barkeep’ or ‘dove’ as the past tense of ‘dive’. And would a boy of Albie’s background really use a word like ‘catamite’?
That said, this is an interesting experiment and a writer to look out for in the future.