Eva Dolan’s fifth book is a departure from her Peterborough-set ‘Hate Crimes’ series and a change in style from third-person narration in more or less chronological sequence to the voices of a pair of narrators in flashbacks as well as more recent moments. This new book, a standalone, is hard work, not least because both of the women we listen to have so many drawbacks. They are both political activists, the older of whom is a professional photographer whose experiences reach as far as Greenham Common’s Women’s Peace Camp in the early 1980s. The younger one, currently writing—or, perhaps rather—not-writing her Ph.D., shares a commitment to stopping London’s demolition of housing for the poor to make way for luxury flats. Since the novel comes hard on Grenfell Tower and contiguous lower-rise housing, it could hardly be more of its moment. Dolan’s work has previously been published by Harvill Secker, by Vintage, and she now follows her editor to Bloomsbury’s new literary crime fiction imprint, Raven Books. I emphasize this because Dolan has written exceptionally well on social issues, and this remains a strenuous characteristic of her work. This is How it Ends is intended to be more ambitious than her previous style, more in tune with psychological suspense plots. It’s by way of being one of those complex novels which require the reader to keep track of a number of things: events, participants, other characters, bodies, when they happened, and starting from not figuring out the title. Since it is both stimulating and taxing, and since the challenge in such novels is precisely the reader’s willingness to work at what may or may not be hints, clues, or confusions, I’ll stop here, except to say that the ending is worth the struggle. Just.

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