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A Tidy Ending


Just when you think Joanna Cannon cannot possibly beat the brilliance of her first two novels, along comes A Tidy Ending, and you realise that, with her third one, she has completely excelled herself and pulled off a truly excellent cosy crime type of murder mystery.

The story flits between three different timelines: the “Now” which is in some kind of institution or hospital; the immediate past of recent happenings on the estate; and then Linda’s childhood in Wales, with each transition between time and place managed perfectly.

The multiple timelines approach is echoed in the multiple plot strands of the novel, and Joanna Cannon manages to knit them all together to provide the Tidy Ending of the title, but, for the reader, there are some surprises along the way, the most breath-taking twist, and a truly memorable and stunning ending – none of which I can expand upon to avoid spoilers. All I will say is that the plotting is remarkable and seamless, and I never saw what was being done for one moment.

Joanna Cannon has deftly created a cast of wonderful characters: a bossy and overbearing mother; the dull, unexciting lover-of-routine husband; the gaggle of curtain twitchers and gossips on the estate; the woman with the apparently dream lifestyle. They are all so beautifully drawn and lifelike that there are many you simply cannot warm to or trust, but you always have sympathy for Linda, who is socially awkward, can’t always “read the room”, is a lifelong under-dog, and also our narrator.

Sharply and astutely observed, perceptive, and told throughout with a delicious turn of phrase and a healthy dollop of wry humour, this is writing that Alan Bennett or Victoria Wood be proud of. The minute I had finished I wanted to read it again, to look for the clues I had missed and to appreciate again the fantastic prose. This is a gem of a book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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