Monday, 27 June 2016

Through a Looking Glass Darkely. Review of Michael Wood's 'Outside Looking In'.

I always consider myself in a privileged position. I am an aspiring writer who is lucky enough to have a few people who have enjoyed something I have written. I have met many other fellow authors and fantastically supportive bloggers...all because I write. I find myself inspired to do better everyday by all of these people, no more so than by Michael Wood who is one of those authors who just keeps supplying the goods. I always find myself slightly envious of his talents as a writer, as the respect he has for his work seems never-ending. Michael, Sarah Hilary, Leigh Russell, Steve Alten, Mark Dawson...these are people I admire and if I end up half as good as them then I'll know I'm doing okay.

But the reason for being here today is because of this little cracker of a book, written by aforementioned Michael Wood.

‘For Reasons Unknown’, Michael's debut novel, was one of my best reads of last year. A highly acclaimed and original crime thriller set in Sheffield that introduced us to detective Matilda Darke (I have said this before, but excellent name!). I have never been to Sheffield, but yet again he describes it so well I feel as though I have.

That novel told the tale of a brutal murder whose only witness is a child and the dovetailing of a case from Matilda’s past that seems to want to come full circle.

‘Outside Looking In’ begins in a similar fashion in so much as we open on a terrible crime signified by a car beeping in morse code outside the house of George and Mary Rainsford.  Curiosity as to the source of the noise leads to the discovery of the crime, evidently quite a brutal one. The subsequent investigation by Matilda quickly becomes something unexpected, with secrets bubbling to the surface and an attacker who seems to have a very specific agenda. Haunted by a previously unresolved and traumatic crime and her own demons, Matilda is drawn into an investigation that pushes her talents to the limits whilst she continues to struggle with her past.

Without giving too much away, the man discovered has been brutally murder and found with a woman who isn’t his wife. Are they having an affair? What is the connection? All these elements are revealed in a teasingly, compulsive fashion that moves fast enough to keep you gripped and not slowly enough to cause frustration.

As with all things Michael Wood, it is his attention to small details that really set his characters and book above many others. I especially enjoyed the references to one of the characters children who has on Batman pajamas sleeping under an Avengers duvet (being a DC comics fan, I forgave Michael for putting Marvel and DC in the same scene…sacrilege!!). Even the initial scene when we meet this father and his son is nuanced and gentle, in a small amount of words illustrating a lovely scene of a father’s love for his child and his worry at his wife’s absence.  Another scene with his son over dinner perfectly illustrated the innocence of children amidst the horrors around them.  

This book has many facets to it. We begin with the crime, perpetrated by and for reasons unknown (no pun intended) which leads on to multiple storylines dealing with Matilda’s unit under threat, her integrity challenged and her emotional strength stretched to its limits. Michael goes an excellent job of slowing pulling them all together towards what is an excellent climax with a twist that should keep most crime book aficionados guessing. I especially enjoyed the story being interspaced with excerpts from newspaper articles and witness statements that added an interesting third person perspective to the narrative.

We revisit a few characters from the first book which added a nice feel to it, tying elements from the first one together and even get to see mentioned some other amazing crime writers and bloggers cleverly worked into the book (Sarah Hilary…another amazing author in an amazing author’s books…very meta!). Special mention has to go to Woody, Michael’s beloved writing companion who I know is greatly missed.

Michael Wood has a unique voice in what is a popular genre which, combined with an excellent ability to breath life into his characters with their flaws, quirks and intricacies, makes him an author who can only go on to greater things.

I cannot wait to see what comes next and remain in awe of his talent. He remains an author to watch out for!

   Outside Looking In is available at and