Book review

Daggers by Roger J Green (2000)

Fourteen-year-old Caroline Walton has inherited a savage temper, from a line of difficult women, and notably from her great-great-grandmother Walton. More to the point, perhaps, she has inherited a great disinclination to control her temper:

Caroline eyeballed the solicitor, staring at him with evil intensity, fixing him with what her grandmother called 'One of our Caroline's dagger looks'.

But although she is well-practised in doing battle with her mother and father, she meets her match in Great-Aunt Clara. Now Clara is very old and ill, and resident in a nursing home. Caroline is extremely reluctant to visit her aunt - until Edward from next door offers her a lift. Caroline likes Edward very much.

The visit to the nursing home changes everything. It is difficult to know whether Clara's ramblings are drug-induced, but she seems lucid enough when she tells the stunned Caroline and Edward:

'I was responsible for the death of a gay man once. I know I was. People would say I murdered him. I know I did. I killed him ...' Her voice trailed away. She gathered her strength. 'His name was Edward. And I killed him.'

Aunt Clara asks Caroline and Edward to fetch something for her from her cottage. It is a tin of mementoes from her early life, and it contains the whole story of the disaster which overtook Clara when she was just twelve years old. Clara's is a devastating story of a wasted life.

Caroline and Edward are caught somewhere between their dislike of the old woman and sympathy for her condition as her story unfolds. A tense stand-off develops with Caroline's father who wants simply to inherit Clara's wealth without acknowledging Clara's terrible story.

This is powerful writing from Roger Green. There's a huge range of emotions and plenty of incidental humour. I thoroughly enjoyed the outrageous Caroline, and the arguments and insults which fly around the Walton family, and the way Caroline slowly comes to terms with the character and condition of her family. I don't classify this book as horror, by the way. Although Aunt Clara does recount a murder and a hanging, they are just events which happened a long time ago.

Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

Roger J. Green has written other books. You might like to look at:

  • Cuckoos

And if you enjoy stories about skeletons in family cupboards, take a look at Jan Mark's book:

You might enjoy this one by David Belbin:

Or this one by Robert Swindells:

There are two by Susan Gates which might interest you:

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