Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS - JOHN MEAGHER

Genre fic­tion sel­dom catches the eye of lit­er­ary awards judges, but this thriller from the English crime writer has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

The story be­gins in 1998, on a sti­fling sum­mer’s day in Eng­land’s West Coun­try, when 11-year-old Jack and his two sis­ters wait in their bro­ken-down car while their mother goes off and seeks help. But she never comes back and life for the chil­dren changes for­ever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge — of his sis­ters, of sup­port­ing them all and of mak­ing sure no­body knows they’re alone in the house. And he is des­per­ate to find out just what hap­pened to his mother — as is DI John Marvel, sent from Lon­don to work on the case. The out­spo­ken jour­nal­ist and au­thor first pub­lished this polem­i­cal tome in 1999 and it fo­cused on the de­cline — as he saw it — of morals and man­ners in his na­tive land from the 1960s on. That edi­tion had Tony Blair and ‘New Labour’ in its sights, and this thor­oughly re­vised book brings the reader up to the present day.

Sub­ti­tled ‘From Win­ston Churchill to Theresa May’, Hitchens ar­gues that the Bri­tain of the present day is a poor shadow of the coun­try that emerged vic­to­ri­ous from the sec­ond world war and the be­fud­dled lead­er­ship in the wake of the Brexit vote only serves to high­light how far the coun­try has fallen in ar­eas such as lit­er­acy and the widen­ing gap be­tween rich and poor. Blooms­bury Sport, 336 pages, €14

Not so long ago, even the big­gest of Eng­land’s foot­ball clubs were owned by lo­cal busi­ness­men whose firms em­ployed lo­cal peo­ple. Such an idea feels ter­ri­bly an­ti­quated to­day when so many clubs — and not just the Liver­pools and Man Unit­eds — are owned by bil­lion­aires on the other side of the world.

Sportswriter Mon­tague trav­els the globe to learn more about these of­ten se­cre­tive own­ers and how they came to amass their wealth. He looks at the in­flu­ence they have had on the game and how it’s led to so many fans feel­ing dis­con­nected to the club they have sup­ported all their lives. And he won­ders where the game can go if yet more Mid­dle Eastern oil barons and Rus­sian oli­garchs buy up foot­ball.

FIC­TION Snap Belinda BauerBlack Swan, 448 pages, €14

NON-FIC­TION The Abo­li­tion of Bri­tain Peter HitchensBlooms­bury, 272 pages, €12

SPORT The Bil­lion­aires Club James Mon­tague

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