This is how it begins.
With a near-empty building, the inhabitants forced out of their homes by property developers.
With two women: idealistic, impassioned blogger Ella and seasoned campaigner, Molly.
With a body hidden in a lift shaft.
But how will it end?
Ella Riordan is a twenty-something PhD student, blogger, and social activist. She is the daughter of a policeman and went to police college herself, only to be bullied out of the course. Ella is a perfectionist and suffers the pressures which she puts on herself. She wants to change the world… Now she lives in South London and protests the gentrification that is going on there. She is also working on her thesis and is interviewing people affected by the gentrification process. After a particularly brutal protest, Ella meets the older Molly who is a veteran of the social protest movement. They become friends and Molly opens doors to Ella that she would otherwise not have had access to. This helps her immensely with her PhD research.
Molly Fader lives in ‘Castle Rise’ one of the buildings scheduled for demolition. She is sixty years old and has lived there for years. It was once the home to almost three hundred residents. Now only six of them are left. The building is now unstable due to all the vibrations from the building work next door. It is plagued by damp, rats, and the heating is turned off. Molly is a part-time art teacher, talented photographer, and life-long professional agitator. She laments: “my life has been shaped by bad choices“.
Ella is working on a book to raise funds for homeless shelters. She and Molly are hosting a sort of impromptu book launch on the roof of Molly’s building. Residents, journalists and more have attended the party. One of the party attendees is someone from Ella’s past. He corners her in a vacant flat. The next thing you know, Ella is calling Molly for help. Ella has killed him! Molly, despite initial reservations, helps Ella and the two women move the body to the broken lift where they drop it down the shaft.
This event, this collusion between the two women, is the catalyst for the rest of the story.
“I made a decision there was no going back from.”
Molly lives in the same building as the body. She imagines every smell, every sound, to be that of the dead man. It plays upon her mind. Molly is ridden with guilt. She has been to prison before and never wants to return. She would never betray Ella though. Ella is like the daughter she never had. She relishes in the fact that Ella needs her.
“I’ve always gone too far for the sake of my friends. It’s the cure of us without proper families to over-invest in people who don’t deserve it.”
Gentrification. In my tiny corner of the world, gentrification is when some young couple renovates a house in an older neighbourhood. In large cities such as London it means something else entirely. It means that people who have lived in their homes for decades are offered money by developers to vacate the premises in order that the developer can tear down their building to build a new high-rise in its place. Millions of pounds/dollars are at stake and the developers are ruthless. The rents on the new building are exorbitant which precludes the previous residents from living there. The result is a social cleansing of the area.
First off, I have to say the writing was brilliant. I enjoyed the pacing, and the atmosphere that the author evoked. I really wanted to connect with the characters, but found to my disappointment that I really could not. This impacted on my overall enjoyment of the novel – I think it would have been a 5 star read otherwise. Perhaps the lives of the characters were just so far divergent from my own experience? I don’t know… If I had to pick a favourite character it would be Molly Fader.
Ultimately, this is a novel about betrayal. About how people who you would trust your life with can turn around and betray you in the worst ways. It asks the age old question, “Can you really EVER know another person?”
“This is how it ends” has a VERY memorable ending. One of those endings that you just know will stick in your mind for months, years…
This is my first read by Eva Dolan and I know that I want to read more of her work. The first novel in her Zigic and Ferraria police procedural series “Long Way Home” is on my TBR.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley. This review is my small way of saying thank-you.
A favourite quote from this book: “The world is too cold and hostile to give up on people.“Eva Dolan is an Essex-based copywriter and intermittently successful poker player. Shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger for unpublished authors when she was just a teenager, the first novels in her series starring two detectives from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit, Long Way Home and Tell No Tales were published to widespread critical acclaim. Tell No Tales was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year and the third in the series, After You Die, was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger.
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