The new novel by Mark Lawson The Deaths is clever and sad, sometimes so funny, and often so sharp you feel like your brain got a paper cut. This is dark social comedy with teeth.
We learn in the first chapter that something truly awful has happened at one of the four manor houses in a small village – the shot dog on the lawn is a clue. The story then unfolds as we meet the four families that live in these beautiful listed buildings: the meek might be going to inherit the earth but in pre-financial crash Britain it was this lot who had possession: financiers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors and magistrates. Their dream lives are shaken by the unfolding financial melt-down and then shattered by the violence that this uncertainty unleashes.
Lawson hides just whose house and family is destroyed until the end – the plotting is inventive and smart, the observations keen and I would suspect, realistic. I was surprised how much I cared about who and what has come apart: Lawson’s characters have few if any redeeming features. Most of the couples are so awful and careless of each other most of the time, that it strikes one as an act of great and remarkable tenderness when one husband marks the place in his fallen-asleep wife’s book.
A very, very good read.