From our most recent publication day, Patrick Barrow’s Bang Out of Order is a crime and mystery novel which plunges its protagonist back into The Irish Troubles and the IRA bombings of London.

 

The synopsis to Patrick’s book reads:

 

In 1979, a desperate Irish republican detonated a bomb on a London train, killing dozens and causing irreparable damage. Years later, with the culprit never discovered, ageing cop Sean Christopher reopens the case, noticing a direct link to his past. As he begins to piece together the evidence from maturing Londoners burdened by their knowledge for far too long, romance begins to blossom with him and a young, witty colleague. Both a tense, quietly desperate crime procedural, and a meditation on time, generational differences, and family trauma, this immensely confident debut by journalist Patrick Barrow is a must-read.

 

If that has peaked your interests, for you now, is the opening pages of the book:

 

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It was the year of explosions. That’s how he remembered it. Detonations. In post boxes, on trains, on shop shelves and under cars. They erupted seemingly every day. The newscasters grim as they flickered black and white on the early evening news and announced the latest. The deaths, the dismemberment, the ashen[1]faced injured, blood mingling with the brick dust and plaster as they sat disbelieving on a kerb or on the step of an ambulance. They had been blown up but were still alive. They didn’t know which they could comprehend less.

 

He remembered two firemen in their old-fashioned helmets, blue serge coats and heavy boots shovelling − shovelling − remains into two bags. London, Belfast, where he couldn’t recall, but there it was; black and white and red all over. The news.

 

And his mother’s friend. A nurse the night someone chucked a bomb through the window of a pub full of soldiers. He remembered her. Vaguely now.

 

Other explosions too. His father’s. The easy switch from jolly charmer to raging bullshit. Sunday lunches running down the wall, fists raised, fists used. The punches to his mother’s arm as she drove, the maudlin moods and misunderstood genius. The lies and confections, the gathering storm. Add alcohol and stand well clear. Who was in for it this time? Not him, never him. Even when the police came, he’d lie calmly. They’d eye him suspiciously of course. They knew. The broken bannister, the crumpled faces, the tension oozing from the walls along with the wine from a thrown glass.

 

Then the bang that changed everything. The slammed front door. Even in a world of explosions, it echoed with the clarity of a single rifle shot. She’d gone. And left them.

 

Where that had left Sean Christopher was where he stood now. On a high hill overlooking London. The new increasingly overcoming the old in height and in light and in prominence. An old bronze general staring silently over the river from his plinth while the aviation lights atop the skyscrapers winked cheekily back like upstart urchins taunting a Chelsea Pensioner.

 

It was autumn. The leaves were turning and the conkers poked their shiny noses through heavy shells of fading green. They were parting slowly, preparing to drop their off-spring onto the pavement. A silent bearing down.

 

Years ago, there would have been gangs of children throwing sticks into the branches to try and harvest them for playground duels. Nobody played conkers any more. The horse chestnuts remained unmolested by string and experiments with ovens and vinegar. Only the pavement awaited. “There’s a moral there somewhere,” he thought, “Heads they win, tails you lose.”

 

General Wolfe still bore the shrapnel scars of a mistimed German bomb. Down there, beyond the Canaletto façade of the Naval College and the grim brick face of the old power station, was that they’d been aiming at; the river and the docks.

 

Christopher thought of the conkers. Change in a nutshell. How many times had he looked down at that view? When he was a kid and the park had been his playground and refuge, joy and solace, running down to the Cutty Sark pier on a yawning Seventies Sunday when all that was open was the tourist ice cream stand and the old ship herself, looking forlornly at the water from her dry dock and her Scottish figurehead looking for a fight.

 

He thought of London then, mid-rise and soot-faced from four-star engines and dirty diesels. The bike rides out into the melancholy flat lands where the clank, clank, clank of the pile drivers sank the footings for the flood barrier.

 

And he looked now. At the shining towers of Canary Wharf where the lights twinkled like stars in the East, a distant robot train on the light railway, the apartments running east and west down the river’s banks and a cruise ship, vast and white, slowly navigating its tourists towards a hard Victorian stop just below Tower Bridge.

 

Somewhere, he thought, somewhere between that past and this present lies the riddle and its answer. He straddled both, knew that city, knew the jaded old cow under that all that make up and knew she never really changed.

 

Christopher and the general were looking at an old friend who had somehow defied the ravages of time; familiar but unrecognisable. They both looked without seeing. The man forever scanning the horizon for a lost city because in it he might find a lost woman.

 

Darkness was closing in. Of mood as much as anything else. And Christopher hated that. He was not maudlin by nature and so tried to deny the slow seep of past woes much ingress. God knows he’d seen enough misery to know its corrosive effects.

 

He looked up at the statue still looking sternly out across the Thames and on into the great city as though he could see up every street and down every alley. Because Christopher was, just, still a detective and because an old police TV series catch phrase came unbidden to mind, he winked and said: “Keep ‘em peeled .”

 

He was smiling to himself as he walked back towards his car. Below, London illuminated like a thousand fishing boats on a coal black sea. They were, for the moment, for the first time in a long time, at ease with each other.

 

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Bang Out of Order is available in paperback now.