Lead Review (The List of Suspicious Things)

  • Book: The List of Suspicious Things
  • Location: Yorkshire
  • Author: Jennie Godfrey

Review Author: Tina Hartas



The List of Suspicious Things by Jennie Godfrey, novel set in 1970s YORKSHIRE.

Novel set in 1970s YORKSHIRE

As a child of the seventies myself, and an avid reader of The Famous Five, I was immediately hooked by the storyline of The List of Suspicious Things by Jennie Godfrey. Miv is a young girl who is starved of affection and her home life is overshadowed by her mum’s unexplained silence. Trying to establish some kind of meaning in her life, she clings to the friendship of Sharon – a beautiful and loyal schoolfriend – and hopes that she can bring reason back to her life by solving the biggest puzzle of her times – the identity of the Yorkshire Ripper. Together they make a list – of people who behave oddly and might just be the Ripper, the brutal killer who, it is said, is living in plain sight in their community. Many of their neighbours come under suspicion. Soon Miv realises, “Behind every grown-up was a story I knew nothing about”. Before long, their investigation takes on new meaning, as it coincides with tragic events in their community. Are they to blame?

Jennie Godfrey describes the Yorkshire landscape of the 1970s in perfect detail, from the popular fashions and music to the most desirable chocolate bars and perfumes at the time. The plot of The List of Suspicious Things hinges on the secrets that the characters keep from each other. Even, in the case of Miv, secrets that are kept from herself, as a youngster struggling to make sense of the adult world around her. The novel beautifully describes the sudden restriction of freedom that she experiences, brought about in a society that’s fearful of the attacks on women by the so-called Yorkshire Ripper. The author conjures what it is to be a powerless youngster perfectly. Miv’s desperate need for affection is set against the mysterious and unexplained silence of her mother, which adds a poignant tension to her home life.

Miv is just one of many strong voices that Jennie Godfrey deploys to tell the story of a Yorkshire community torn apart by unemployment, political change and the fear or violence against women. It’s easy to see why this book has been compared with A Kestrel For A Knave, with its similar setting and youthful protagonist. The community is typical of its time, with the need to maintain appearances trumping the need for emotional honesty and closeness.

The story unfolds at a gentle pace, but the author builds involvement and empathy with the characters so skilfully that the final scenes are still shocking and emotionally harrowing. A truly involving and emotional read.

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