Tuesday 8 March 2011

Apostle Rising by Richard Godwin

Richard Godwin is a prolific writer of short fiction. Of course prolific doesn’t necessarily mean good, but in Godwin’s case he never puts a foot wrong.

I’ve loved his short stories and the way he constructs them. He makes me look into the darkness for a few seconds more than I’d like until I see what it is he wants me to see and he holds my attention at places where I might rather be skimming into easier territories.

He also has an amazing versatility in terms of the settings, characters and voices he uses as though he’s some kind of twisted ventriloquist.

My only reservation about tackling his debut novel Apostle Rising was that he wouldn’t be able to transfer his talent from the short piece to the long. It didn’t take me long to realise that there was no problem for him on that score.

He handles the police-procedural aspect of things as though this were the tenth in a series, with a craft and poise I hadn’t expected. At the same time he dips us into the bloodbath of his darker-workings just to let us know he’s still around.

Apostle Rising ’ is like a massive Venn diagram of plots that are fitted together skilfully to produce one very satisfying whole.

Detective Chief Inspector Frank Castle is a long in the tooth policeman who was damaged years before by a series of murders known as ‘The Woodland Killings’. His life is spinning out of control as alcohol obscures his memories from his waking life only to drag them into his dreams. His side-kick DI Jacki Stone who knows Castle is good at his job also knows he’s a poor role model as a human being. The way their characters are drawn I reckon I could have read about them working any-old case and enjoyed it. Make their case a copycat of The Woodland Killings, throw in the twisted cult leader Karl Black and his training of a band of extremist believers and add a host of slayings of political figures and you’re in for a treat.

Just like in his short stories, Godwin has you staring at things you’d rather look away from at times as though he’s holding your head in one direction with one hand and your eye-lids up with the other. It gets messy out there – brutally so. It also becomes psychologically disturbing as we see Karl Black work his way into the minds of Castle and Stone. There’s nowhere to run once your inside and there’s not going to be a way out until you get to the end, Godwin’s new twist on the term page-turner.

A word of warning. This isn't for readers who are turned off by the more graphic depictions of violence.
If that's not you, you have yourself a great read.


  1. Tip: If you're going to be reading this book at night by yourself, check every lock in your house twice and then be prepared to find yourself re-checking them before you go to bed -- with the lights on.

  2. Nice review, Nigel. I started it the other day and am loving it so far. I think you hit it on the head--Richard writes with poise both in the short stories and novels.

  3. I am still reading it, but I think you are right, Nigel. I also think that Richard brings a texture of language to his stories, sexy and tactile.

  4. I agree with you guys. I planned to mention those lovely textures of language (well put Lynn) and must have gone off on a tangent. Thanks Lynn for filling in my blanks.

  5. I completely agree that Richard is a master at the dark short stuff and I’m looking forward to seeing how he tackles a novel length police procedural. The novel is getting so many terrific words about it here and there that it has got to be a must read for me.

    Thanks for the review, Nigel – sounds like a cracking read.

  6. Hi Nigel,
    Excellent take on, what seems to me to be, one of the most eagerly anticipated debuts I can recall. Richard's writing oozes class 'n' shocking qualities I've yet to find elsewhere.
    Ps. I, too, love Lynn's 'textures of language' reference.

  7. Nigel thank you for this great review. Bill, Paul, Chris, Lynn, Alan and Col thank you all so much for your words of support, I hope you enjoy 'Apostle Rising'.