Against all odds, Kelly’s novelization of the eponymous British TV series, now being remade for U.S. television as Gracepoint, works as both a classic puzzle and an unnerving portrait of a little English town wracked by a young boy’s murder.
No one in Broadchurch can imagine why anyone would have wanted to kill Danny Latimer. No one can even imagine what the 11-year-old was doing out on his own in the middle of the night when he was strangled to death. His murder is a particular blow to DS Ellie Miller, whose son Tom was Danny’s best friend. Ellie’s just returned from a Florida vacation to find that the promotion she’d assumed would be hers has actually gone to DI Alec Hardy, an outsider whose last case, another child killing, ended with the presumed murderer going free—something he’s not exactly eager to advertise. What he is eager to do, it seems, is model a frigidly disengaged attitude and lecture Ellie about her need to do the same, even though she’s known everyone involved in the case forever. Clearly, the killer is someone she doesn’t know nearly as well as she thought. Suspicion falls in turn on Danny’s father, Mark, a plumber who can’t give a convincing alibi for the night his son was killed; phone engineer Steve Connolly, who hears voices that provide clues to the mystery; newsagent Jack Marshall, who employed Danny as a paper boy; young vicar Paul Coates; truculent Susan Wright, who’s got Danny’s missing skateboard hidden away; and Mark’s helper and would-be alibi Nige Carter. As journalists circle Hardy ready to expose his connection to his scandalous last case, Ellie reels under the sickening sense that each new suspicion is more devastating than the last.
Kelly (The Burning Air, 2013, etc.) folds a loving portrait of rural Dorset and a well-made whodunit into a painstaking account of the grief and unimaginable pain that follow in the wake of one child’s murder.