In Other Hands is a novel about five characters living in Birmingham who cross each other's paths in a series of unlikely coincidences. The story is written by local author, Iain Grant, and published by Pigeon Park Press.
The five-perspective approach with such a rich ensemble keeps the story fresh and makes for a page-turning reading experience. A lesser writer might struggle with such breadth (and depth) of characters but Grant slips between them effortlessly.
Readers will be divided over which character is their favourite: homeless Templeton, fox researcher Karen, amateur sleuth Nadia or terminal psychiatrist Jane. Many will rightly favour Danny, the reformed paedophile who regularly escapes into the fantasy of online gaming. Danny is a particularly difficult character to make sympathetic but Grant appears to relish the challenge. The scene where Danny is holding a little boy's hand is a tense, uncomfortable and brilliant piece of writing.
As ever, Grant's talent for witty dialogue exchanges is correct and present. One feels it is only a matter of time before he tries his hand at a screenplay. Perhaps his collaborative comic novel Clovenhoof will get a much-deserved BBC3 adaptation in the near future.
The sixth character in this modern day masterpiece is the setting. Joyce had Dublin, Dickens had London and now Grant has Birmingham. The city is realised in all of its timeless, charming Midlands glory with plenty of shout-outs to locations both in and out of the city. It will provide an extra frisson of joy to any Brummie or Birmingham graduate turning the pages and is worth buying for this reason alone. As Grant himself writes in the Dedication: “You might be able to imagine a story like this being set somewhere else. I can’t.”
If a criticism can be levelled at this masterful work, then it is this: Grant should have called the novel Five Ways, after Birmingham's infamous roundabout. Then again, the film adaptation can resolve that one.
In Other Hands is available for Kindle download on Amazon, currently priced at £1.94. A true bargain in this reviewer’s opinion.
By Simon Fairbanks who can be contacted via @simonfairbanks