Sep 11 2014 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Broadchurch by Erin Kelly

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly is a small town murder mystery based on the television series from Chris Chibnall (available September 16, 2014).

At its core, this is a police procedural. A dead body has been found, obviously murdered. Detectives need to figure out who did it and why. Once they do, if they do, apprehend the culprit. But there is so much more than that going on.

All of the action takes place in a small town. The good thing about small towns is that everybody knows everybody else. It’s also the bad thing about small towns. At first no one can believe someone they know could have done this. It must be an outsider.  But as the investigation drags on, they start looking at each other differently. Every action and word becomes suspect, sinister.

A big city Detective Inspector is leading the investigation. Alec Hardy’s got the experience, the know-how. What he doesn’t know is how to navigate this small town. He’s brusque, rude even. No one on the team likes his style. Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, as his reluctant second in command, gets the brunt of it.

She’s barely holding it together. Danny was her son’s best friend and her best friend’s son. As a detective she knows what questions she needs to ask and just who should be questioned, whether she likes it or not. And Miller does manage to keep up with Hardy. Not only keep up with but stand up to when necessary. Ellie’s a mum. And that doesn’t just mean the soft, nurturing part. She has the grit and stamina to keep going, protect herself and those close to her while ferreting out the truth.

Kelly uses multiple points of view to tell the story. Since Hardy and Miller have such different personalities and styles, it made sense that the author would choose to let the reader into their heads. Hardy is carrying a lot of secrets and emotions around. What kept me from thinking he was nothing but a jerk was learning what was inside the policeman:

To one side of the door frame Danny’s height has been recorded through the years, inked on the wall from his fourth birthday to a couple of months ago. The first few dates and measurements are in adult handwriting but most are in Danny’s own, a round childish scrawl slowly evolving into a distinct hand. The lines come to an abrupt halt somewhere near Hardy’s elbow. Heavy sadness pierces his professional armour and he sinks on to the bed and lets his head drop into his hands. For some people tears dam behind the eyeballs but when Hardy wants to cry he has to hold them in using the back of his throat. He sometimes feels it’s the only strong muscle in his body.

When he looks up again, Beth is on the landing, staring right at him. He’s seen that expression before, on another mother, and he has to turn his face away. It’s not the grief he can’t handle. It’s the trust, the unquestioning trust she has already put in him.

Miller has the inside track with the people of the town and the victim’s family. I was glad to get the first-hand information watching Ellie question people rather than have to “listen” to her tell Hardy what she’s been doing.

But the author goes way beyond these two. She spends a lot of time with Danny’s parents, Beth and Mark. Early on, Beth’s reaction to finding out her son isn’t where he’s supposed to be is spot on.

Her pulse doubles its pace as the first cold trickle of panic begins. She tells herself to stay calm, that it’s probably nothing, but her fingers slip on the keypad when she pulls up Danny’s number on her phone. Even as it goes straight to voicemail she resolves to keep it breezy because she doesn’t want him to think he’s in trouble, although if she finds out he’s bunking off, God help her, she’ll – ‘Danny, it’s Mum,’ she says after the beep. ‘So you’re not at school, can you give me a call straight away, sweetheart, just want to know where you are.’

But even while she’s talking her mind is running ahead of her and her next call, one second after ringing off, is to Jack Marshall at the paper shop to check that Danny did his round earlier in the morning. Jack tells her that Danny didn’t turn up. He didn’t call. This has never happened before. Beth cannot conceive a situation that would make Danny miss his paper round.

She keeps the next call short to free up the line for Danny. ‘Mark, it’s me, ring me now.’

A reporter from London who latches onto the story is a big point of view character. Other locals whose point of view we get are Danny’s sister, the newsagent, the local newspaper staff, Tom—Ellie’s son and Danny’s friend, a coworker of Danny’s father, a strange woman who lives in a caravan. There may be a few more. Some of them worked for me, others seemed like overkill.

I was kept guessing right up to the end—and I saw the television show. My excuse is that occasionally a decision is made to change the end of a story when it changes media (I’m not saying if that was done here or not.). The shifts in point of view added to the misdirection. You see, even the nicest person keeps certain facts about themselves hidden. Some of these secrets are worse than others, but keeping any secrets when an eleven-year-old boy has been murdered becomes suspicious.

What worked the best for me was the relationship between Hardy and Miller. Making opposites work together isn’t a new idea. Books, movies and television are full of these partnerships—some better than others. Done well it’s a great way to show more than one side of the story. Here it is done well. I also appreciated that there was not even a hint of potential romantic involvement. It’s just too easy a trap to fall into, and the writer(s) didn’t take the bait.

The television show has been renewed. I hope that means we’ll get another Broadchurch book as well.

See more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

Enjoy our exclusive audio excerpt of Erin Kelly's Broadchurch!

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TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

Broadchurch Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) September 11, 2014. Sweepstakes ends 10:29 a.m. ET September 18, 2014. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Debbie Meldrum reads just about everything she can get her hands on. She was the short fiction editor for Apollo's Lyre and the Editor in Chief of the Pikes Peak Writers NewsMag. She's currently putting the finishing touches on her first novel.

Read all of Debbie Meldrum's posts for Criminal Element.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Lisa Weihl
1. lweihl
Love a good mystery and being from a small town I am very intrigued at the premise of this book.
Sheila Korman
2. skkorman
I would love to read this book—thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!
Gordon Bingham
3. gordonbingham
Really enjoyed the origial teleplay. Looking forward to this one!
Lisa Neuman
5. neurosie
If its half as good as the TV series, it'll be excellent.
Jeanette Barney
6. eyeluvbooks59
I would love to read this book. It would be a great win.
Karen Barnett
8. kpbarnett
Book sounds terrific. Just discovered that I have this channel so I get to watch!
9. yiayia79
Sounds like a good read
Janice Santillo
12. themommazie
Sounds like an interesting read. Hope I win.
Jeffrey Malis
14. bravejam
Looking forward to reading this companion material... Thanks for the chance!
Theresa Dell
15. Ziggywag
Loved the TV show and would really love to read the book
Kermit Crissey
17. kermitcrissey
I need a good book to read and this sounds like a good one!!
Dara Nix
18. DaraNix61
I've never seen the television show ... but I would LOVE to read this! Thanks for the opportunity!
Darlene Wright
19. lefty22
This looks good, would like to read it! Thanks
Tari Lawson
22. hawkshoe
I tried the link to "post a comment" and it is invalid :(.
carol bondell
25. csbondell
love mysteries and would love to win this book
27. runner
Groovy Fresh Meat: Broadchurch!
28. Roberta123
I'd like to read & review this book. Sounds like a winner.
33. jpl123456
Great series, now I want to read the book.
Peter W. Horton Jr.
34. mosaix
Murder in a small town and good cop-bad cop! Yes!
Heather Giovannitti
35. hippichiclv
I heard this was a great series. I would love to read the book!
Jeffrey Tretin
37. jtretin
Loved the series on BBC America. Would love to read the book.
38. bigsandwich6
Sounds cool.
40. maryc
Enjoyed the series - book sounds great.
41. Marjorie Tucker
I'd love to win a copy of Broadchurch.
42. Megan Marie
I love the television series and am very interested to read the book!
Andrew Kuligowski
43. KuligowskiAndrew
I confess - I'm not familiar with the television series. However, it sounds like my type of reading.
44. Julie Earhart Cracchiolo
mememememememememememe! Please pick me!
47. Rosemary
I loved the series...hope the US remake is just as good - and look forward to another book!
Patrick Murphy
48. Ditch
I loved the TV series and I am a big fan of David Tennant so this was something I had to see
Diane Walli
49. dkw1953
Happy to see the continuation of Broadchurch stories. Thanks for the chance to win.
Deborah Dumm
50. deb730
Sounds like a real good book. Never saw the TV show.
Lori Rutherford
52. keirma
This book sounds like an all-nighter!Can't wait to read it
Deanna Stillings
53. reader123
This sounds great. We don't get to see the TV program.
betsy shipley
54. soyfoods
Loved! the first season of the BBC Broadchurch and looking forward to the second season. I now understand that the Fox station will be showing a us version of Broadchurch with David Tennant coming this fall.
Hm....... Since I enjoy everything British, Danish, etc. I wonder if the us version will have too much glitz like so many other shows have.
betsy shipley
susan beamon
55. susanbeamon
I did manage to see one episode of the show. Then someone at the station showing it moved things around without telling the tv guide people and I missed the rest of the show. The episode I saw was interesting, if slow. Books don't need to match the pace of a television program, which is one of the reasons I like books better. I can skim the draggy parts if I want to. Looking forward to eventually reading this book.
Crystal Blackburn
56. lovesmysteries
I loved the tv series. Now I'm dying to read the book.
57. njgrl
Sounds like my type of book, count me in.
Lisa Richardson
58. keizerfire
I grew up in a small town AND I worked for the newspaper there, so this story sounds doubly interesting to me! Someone above mentioned there is a tv series, which I've never heard of, so I will have to search that out.
Being from a small town, this sounds like something I would enjoy. I have always said that you can't do anything in my hometown without everyone knowing it, so I can't imagine how anyone could commit murder and get away with it.
Joanne Mielczarski
60. jtmswim
Loved the BBC show, would love to read the book.
Lisa Garrett
61. lag123
I am from a small town and would love to read this.
Katharine Kan
62. nekolibrarian
The BBC series was must-see TV in our household. I would love to read the novel! I'm hoping for more backstory about the characters.
L Peters
63. leepcat
I've heard this is such a great book. So I'm hoping to win. Thanks.
Susan Stokes
64. Susan
Was Sad to See Broadchurch Leave us... To Read The Book Will be A Joy!!! Fox "Gracepoint" (Broadchurch) must Stay and not Stray from the Original BC we will be Watching...
Linda Kish
66. ljkish
I would love to read this book. It sounds terrific.
Randy Franco
68. dextorboot
Loved the show. Looking forward to the remake as well.
patricia gibby
71. pgibby1
Never have seen the show, but would like to read the book
Sally Winkleblech
76. sallyw
I think this is a book I would really enjoy.
Diane Furst
78. dbooks22
Have not seen the show, but this sounds like a great book. If I don't win, I'll just check it out on my own.
Colleen Votour
80. Colleen
I would love to get a copy of this ARC. so glad the show was renewed.
Bobbi Dannenfeldt
81. bjcarico
I love the show and can't wait to read the book!
Darlene Slocum
83. darandsam
I like small town mysteries. Local law enforcement varies from town to town and I find that interesting and sometimes amusing.
Marjorie Manharth
84. mmanharth
Sounds like everything I like in a book - would love to read it.
John Monahan
87. JohnM
I really enjoyed the show and am wondering how the book compares.
M Thompson
88. MST
We missed part of the tv series so would love to read the book!
Joan OToole
90. Joniot
I liked the TV show and would like to read the book. Thanks for a great giveaway.
Joe Hauser
91. jhauser42
Amazing how many people can't read this:

"TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!
94. Edd
I would like to read the work of Erin Kelly!
Kenneth Konczal
96. kek620
The television series was super.How can this book be bad?
Patty Dump
102. 01whitty
I would enjoy reading this story. I really like stories without the typical "bad boy hero falls in love with..." Thanks.
105. Regina m
It's a mystery who will win. Randomizer, pick me.
Phoenix Vie
107. Phoenix
The original series was very powerful, & I'd like to read the book.
109. Tim H. Moss
Good deal, count me in!
Kelley Tackett
110. tackettfamilyky
I watched Broadchurch when it was on BBC America and I thought it was fantastic. I didn't buy the book for our library because I think it's going to be confusing for people. They hear that there is a book, but the Fox show is called Gracepoint, so people will be looking for a book called Gracepoint and there isn't one. I would like to read the book to see what was left out of the BBC America version. I'm still on the fence about watching Gracepoint.
111. Rebecca Kesa
Would something to read .
Lisa Ahlstedt
113. Lisanne624
Loved the series! Would love to read the book!
114. CherylMc
would love this
115. MariaL
Sounds interesting - I'll keep an eye out for the book and the show
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