At first blush, a debut novel by comedian and BBC late-night host Graham Norton sounds like it would be rife with wry humor and witty antics in the vein of his TV show. But aside from a somewhat quirky lead character, this novel is surprisingly down to earth. You could say it’s downright cozy, because, essentially, that’s what it is: a modern-day cozy mystery in the tradition of one of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple adventures.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, Holding is a refreshing, albeit nostalgic, change of pace from the grittier, fast-paced domestic thrillers crowding for space on bookshelves this summer.
At its heart is Sergeant P. J. Collins, a somewhat overweight, middle-aged cop who's content to patrol the remote Irish village of Duneen where nothing exciting really happens. Even after human remains are discovered on the site of a new housing development, Collins is quick to let the more experienced Detective Superintendent Linus Dunne from neighboring Cork lead the investigation.
He’s surprised and flattered when Dunne encourages him to conduct his own line of inquiry of residents—particularly Brid Riordan and Evelyn Ross, who both had affairs with the deceased, Tommy Burke. A new set of bones, those belonging to an infant, are soon found near the first set and propel the investigation toward even darker secrets.
As Collins delves into the trio’s background and learns about their sordid past, his own sense of self-worth and confidence slowly awaken—as do his own affections for Brid.
Norton weaves in occasional humor, mostly at Collins’ expense, but overall opts for a more subtle and touching narrative of secrets long buried, lost love and self-discovery that will stay with readers well after reaching the end of this story.