Dominick Donald’s debut novel is set in a miserable 1952 London, where the streets have been reduced to rubble by bombs, literal and metaphorical fog has overtaken everything and PC Dick Bourton finds himself investigating a particularly unpleasant series of murders. It takes undeniable courage to introduce John “Reg” Christie, one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, into the mix of a crime procedural, but Donald’s grim, brilliant book justifies his presence by sustaining the ghastly plot reversals and suffocating tension until the climax.
Breathe ingeniously knits together the killer London smog of the winter of 1952 and the discovery of multiple corpses in Rillington Place in 1953. Dominick Donald creates a splendidly honest, but wily and perceptive hero in the burly Korean War veteran Dick Bourton, and a resourceful heroine to match him in his voluptuous half- Russian, half-Chinese fiancée, Anna...Donald writes his most thrilling passages in staccato lists of impressions that the narrator Martyn Ellis makes rat-a-tat on the ear like hammer blows
Dominick Donald combines a tangy depiction of ration-era London with a strong historical context featuring, among many vividly realised scenes, a chase through the Underground that will haunt your commute for weeks.
This subtly woven mixture of fiction and fact, which partly draws on the notorious case of 10 Rillington Place and the serial killer Reg Christie, casts a magical spell, and even includes a moving love story. It is a stunning debut from a former academic, security expert and journalist. You can smell the fog and feel the breath being sucked out of your body as you struggle to understand what is happening in the darkness.
an outstanding debut by Dominick Donald...Donald combines historical events and fictional characters to superb effect, in a novel that deserves to win prizes.
The best debut of the year was surely Dominick Donald’s deeply impressive Breathe (Hodder, £17.99) in which a police probationer gropes his way through the great smogs of Fifties London on the trail of a multiple killer.