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Love Will Tear Us Apart by C.K. McDonnell from @TransworldBooks

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Love Will Tear Us Apart by C.K. McDonnell

Transworld Books, Penguin Random House HB, £14.95

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

The front cover for Love Will Tear Us Apart by C.K. McDonnell. The cover is blue with the book's title overlaying an ornate mirror.

Hannah has left The Stranger Times for an exclusive retreat exploring the benefits of giving her marriage a second try. But is there anyone in the world who can stare down the barrel of Banecroft’s blunderbuss and answer his interview questions without having a breakdown? Especially as Banecroft is even more unhinged than normal. Banecroft’s life revolves around waiting for ghosts to appear so he can talk to his deceased wife, convinced her spirit is in trouble. Without Hannah around to hold him accountable for his actions, Banecroft sets off on a course of actions that pits him against everyone and sees him follow his wife to the grave.

In McDonnell’s third instalment following the journalists of The Stranger Times, we join the action after Hannah has abruptly left, and everyone is convinced Banecroft is responsible for it. He is, and isn’t at the same time. However, for the sake of keeping the review spoiler-free, I won’t go into the details. Just trust that McDonnell is a master at weaving threads together. Every conversation, however random they might seem, has a point which is revealed in due course and brings everything to a sort-of neat ending.

One of the elements of the series that appealed to me was the banter between the characters. Some of them have a retort for everything, and within the Times, that made sense because they are a close-knit group. However, in Love Will Tear Us Apart, it wore a bit thin. We are introduced to new characters who also have this conversational style, and some who didn’t have it before have developed it. You can have too much of a good thing, and for me, this constant back and forth of sarcasm and witty retorts dragged conversations on longer than they should have. The page space could have been used for delving into the subtleties of the characters’ actions, which I could have done with more.

The increased cast was dispersed fairly thinly, sometimes operating in isolation and had so little to do with the main action I questioned why they were even given page space. For example, DI Tom Sturgess turns up a handful of times, querying the disappearance of an occasional contributor to the paper. For me, this storyline was weak compared to the others, as if it was something thrown in so we didn’t forget the character existed.

Those niggles aside, though, McDonnell gave us closure on a couple of elements that had spanned the three books, which I appreciated, and cleared the way for new mysteries to beset the paper, like uncovering the deal with Stella. The story moved at a fast pace, darting us from location to location, twisting and turning until everything was uncovered, and we had a warm, satisfying end. And as always, Love Will Tear Us Apart is funny, as expected from McDonnell, at times reminiscent of the late great Sir Terry Pratchtett. That style, combined with its central location of Manchester, my home,  will always mean I have a soft for this series.

As the third book covers so much of what has gone before, I wouldn’t recommend starting here, but I would heartily recommend going back to the beginning. Trust me; it’s worth it. And if you’re already a fan of the series, you will enjoy Love Will Tear Us Apart too. Highly recommended.

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