It is the writer Iain Sinclair, no less, who provides the encomium for this latest rich and strange offering from one of Britain’s most individual writers. And Sinclair is the perfect commentator, given that his highly idiosyncratic vision of this country is one of the few that is a match for Unsworth’s equally off-kilter perception. Weirdo is probably Unsworth’s most fully achieved book, with the eponymous character described by the tabloids as the ‘Wicked Witch of the East’ who at the age of 15 had been convicted of murdering one of her classmates. Two decades later, private eye Sean Ward (with an abruptly terminated Met career in his past) begins to uncover new stratifications hidden within this multilayered case from the past. There is, perhaps, a warning that should be given before picking up the novel: its density and atmosphere will make most other contemporary crime fiction seem etiolated fare. But Unsworth aficionados need not hesitate.

Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth is published by Serpent’s Tail

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