THIS IS HOW IT ENDS
Raven Books (www.bloomsbury.com)
During a party to celebrate the achievement of a major milestone in her anti-gentrification campaign, Ella Riordan finds herself in an apartment with a dead man. She calls on the only person she knows who might be able to help her: seasoned campaigner and new friend, Molly Fader. Claiming self-defence, Ella and Molly dump the body into the lift shaft of the mostly-abandoned apartment building that is at the centre of Ella’s current project. But when the body is discovered, Ella’s story begins to unravel, and Molly finds herself wondering just who this young girl is that she has taken under her wing.
Ella Riordan is a blogger and PhD student who is attempting to stand up for the residents of a London apartment block that is about to be torn down so that bigger, fancier apartments can be built, and sold for ridiculous amounts of money. Ella’s campaign has drawn a lot of attention, and has brought her into contact with Molly Fader, who lives in one of the condemned apartments. Molly is a campaigner of old, present at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the early ‘80s, and a vociferous campaigner during the miners’ strikes in the same decade. Molly has introduced Ella to her network, helping the young woman in her own campaign.
When we meet the two women, they’re at a party on the roof of the condemned apartment building, celebrating a major milestone in their campaign. Before the first chapter is done, there’s a man lying dead in an apartment, and Ella is claiming self-defence. From this point, the narrative splits into two distinct streams: Molly takes us through the aftermath of the death, and the subsequent investigation, while Ella’s story takes us back in time, giving us some idea, in reverse, of how she ended up here: her mysterious lover, Dylan; her unfinished police training; the protest, and subsequent photo snapped by Molly, that made her name.
Eva Dolan’s latest novel, This is How it Ends, is a standalone novel that looks at the gentrification of London – the new buildings constantly springing up, displacing residents from much older tower blocks, often forcing them outside the boundaries of the city due to the unrealistic pricing of the new accommodation. Throw in a murderer and not one, but two very unreliable narrators, and the scene is set for an edge-of-the-seat thriller that will keep the reader guessing to the very last page. Molly’s narrative is reasonably straightforward, presented in first person, as she presents us with the aftermath of the murder. As the body is discovered, and each new clue is revealed, Molly begins to doubt Ella’s story: was it self-defence? Did Ella know this man in an earlier life? Does Molly really know her young friend as well as she thought she did?
Ella’s story is much more complex, each chapter taking place days or weeks prior to the previous one, stepping backwards in time to reveal, chapter by chapter, just who exactly Ella is. It’s a cleverly-constructed puzzle, all the more impressive for how well it handles the big reveals. Anyone who enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film, Memento, will find much in This is How it Ends to love, a complex and engaging plot that only makes sense when both stories are read in concert. As time passes, and Molly grows ever more wary of Ella, the two strands move inexorably towards an inevitable end, but Dolan manages to surprise even here, pulling the rug from under our feet just when we think we’ve worked everything out.
Eva Dolan is best known for her Zigic and Ferreira novels, which I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read. Following This is How it Ends, I’ll definitely be picking this series up. Dolan’s deft storytelling ability keeps the reader turning the pages, keeping us constantly on our toes, as we try to work out what’s going on. The police play a peripheral role, nudging the two central characters into defensive stances, causing a split to form in a friendship that, we soon discover, was most likely doomed from the outset. A story of guilt and betrayal, it’s a cracking read from a hugely talented and well-respected author.
If, like me, you have yet to jump on the Eva Dolan bandwagon, This is How it Ends is the perfect opportunity to do so. Complex and thought-provoking, it’s the perfect example of modern-day noir, dark and fast-paced, without heroes or villains, but characters in various shades of grey. One novel is enough to see Dolan’s credentials: she is one of the finest crime writers working today, and she’s now a fixture on my must-read list. Not to be missed.