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    AN ENGLISH MURDER by Louise Doughty

    Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1998/2000

    Reporter Alison Akenside thinks that the murder of two neighbors is her chance at success. Not much happens in Nether Bowston, Rutland, England, and if she misses this opportunity she may not have another. Unfortunately, Alison doesn't really have much of a clue how to go about solving the crime or even to go about investigating. The only thing she is sure of is that the police are looking for the wrong man. The composite picture they have created is of her brother and he claims an unshakable alibi.

    In AN ENGLISH MURDER, Louise Doughty has created an entire community of disfunctional and gradually declining people. The murdered couple, the Cowpers, raised a daughter who hated them and failed all of her exams. Alison's neighbor writes mysteries longhand. Alison's mother has never recovered from the death of her younger brother in a fire that destroyed their home--and has never let her children forget it. Her brother floats from place to place, unwilling to face her parents or a career. The entire town of Nether Bowston seems teetering on the brink of disintegration.

    Doughty makes this picture of decaying poverty come alive. Moving from first person to third person narative, Doughty investigates the dreams of her characters, only to find that they are as empty as the lives they lead. Alison, it seems, is a literal sleepwalker at night. During the day, she is little better. Alison's own disfunctional family parallels that of the murdered couple and their missing daughter. Could Alison have acted in the same way Gemma did?

    AN ENGLISH MURDER presents an interesting and different look at the British murder.

    Three Stars

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