V for Violet
South London, 1961, and 16-year-old Violet has left school but is stuck in her dad’s fish and chip shop, missing out on the Swinging Sixties and with no future as far as she can see. Her best friend Jackie also made the break from school but is striking out in a new life with new friends, leaving dull, bespectacled Violet behind. But then Violet meets a cheeky biker boy and goes for a secret ride on his motor-bike. He shows her a special place on a lonely hill overlooking London, and the beginnings of love with all its uncertainties arises. Then something terrible happens. A girl is murdered in nearby Battersea Park, and soon afterwards Violet sees her mother in the park with another man. With no wish to spoil the plot I’ll stop there, suffice to say that what follows is a series of grisly murders, and when a body of someone close to Violet turns up, she sets out to track down the killer.
This is an engrossing evocation of a particular period with an absorbing plot. I really cared about the characters, and although Violet is seen at first as one of those girls who are never part of the in-crowd, she is sparky enough to change when the opportunity arises. The cover warns us of strong language, but it is probably nothing that most 16-year-olds haven’t heard before, and the budding relationship between Violet and her biker boy-friend Beau, when they take a room together in Brighton, is delicately drawn. The central relationship confounds expectations and raises the story from one of true love to something much more radical. An evocative and generous story.