‘There’s only control, control of ourselves and others. And you have to decide what part you play in that control.’
Cast your eye over the comfortable north London home of a family of high ideals, radical politics and compassionate feelings. Julia, Paul and their two daughters, Olivia and Sophie, look to a better society, one they can effect through ORGAN:EYES, the campaigning group they fundraise for and march with, supporting various good causes.
But is it all too good to be true? When the surface has been scratched and Paul’s identity comes under the scrutiny of the press, a journey into the heart of the family begins. Who are these characters really? Are any of them the ‘real’ them at all? Every Trick in the Book is a genre-deconstructing novel that explodes the police procedural and undercover-cop story with nouveau romanish glee. Hood overturns the stone of our surveillance society to show what really lies beneath.
Many thanks to the author and to Renard Press for my spot on the blog tour and for sending me a proof of Every Trick in the Book.
I was a massive fan of Iain Hood’s previous novel This Good Book so I jumped at the chance to read more of his work. I also really like the link between the titles (I’m having fun thinking of what his next book might be called) and the gentle intertextual reference to Susan Alison MacLeod which appears early on in Every Trick. These little touches of playfulness are what the author does so well, and it sets the reader up nicely for the meta, modernist journey that Hood takes us on.
To borrow from the artistic theme of his previous novel, reading Every Trick feels like wandering through an eclectic art gallery. From the camera-panning opening, in which we zoom in on the everyday objects that represent the family’s ‘Sunday supplement’ life; to Paul’s interactions with Sarge and the Chief; to his surreal spell in an institution; to the Woolfian consciousness-flitting of imagined passers-by: each set piece has a different tone, and yet the author manages to pull it all together through clever mirroring techniques (of plot, character and indeed whole passages).
This is definitely a book you have to concentrate on, and I’m sure my brow was deeply furrowed while reading (except when it relaxed for the humour that is liberally sprinkled throughout), but like This Good Book, Every Trick wears its intellectual credentials lightly, and the play(fulness) is the thing. And just when you think it has wandered too far into stylistic trickery, it pulls you back in with a sucker punch of emotion, bringing Olivia and Sophie to the forefront at just the right moment.
I think what I admire so much about Iain Hood’s writing is that rather than ‘making you think,’ it invites you to do so, with a wink and a nudge and the comforting hand of levity laid gently on your shoulder. Yes, it is deeply intelligent, self-referential, stylistically daring work, dealing with large, important themes, but it is also tremendous fun, and pulling off this particular trick is no mean feat. I’m so glad that Renard Press has given us the opportunity to enjoy his work, and I look forward to His Next Book…
About the Author
Iain Hood was born in Glasgow and grew up in the seaside town of Ayr. He attended the University of Glasgow and Jordanhill College, and later worked in education in Glasgow and the west country. He attended the University of Manchester after moving to Cambridge, where he continues to live with his wife and daughter. His first novel, This Good Book, was published in 2021.
Every Trick in the Book by Iain Hood is published by Renard Press and is available to purchase here.