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The secret Baby Room: A review of some reviews and other media

August 28, 2015

Cover design for The Secret Baby Room, by Rawshock DesignThe secret Baby Room has been in the world for almost two months now, so here’s a wee round up of its reception. First off, here’s a piece I wrote for Northern Soul describing the book’s origins, and here’s an article on the book and my life in Cheltenham that was published in the weekend supplement of the Gloucestershire Echo. There’s also my interview with BBC Manchester, complete with amusing technical problems.

As regards the reviews, Crime Culture kicked things off, writing: “As her own life falls apart, Claire risks everything in her quest. It’s an investigation that leads her not only towards the dark knowledge of past crimes but towards an understanding of the damaged lives of those around her.  Johnston offers us a wonderfully gripping read, but also a compassionate and moving story of people struggling to survive at the margins of a rapidly changing city.”

Writing for Northern Soul, Brian Lavery was generous in his praise: “In this fine novel, Johnston is an examiner and a questioner, rather than a polemicist. The result is a mix of thriller, satire, and cultural examination, seamlessly contained in a thumping good story with a great denouement.”

The Morning Star liked it so so but felt “it just doesn’t quite manage to convince as a complete offering.” Reviewer Paul Simon wrote: Johnston is too adept a storyteller to fall into agitprop-style prose and he almost incidentally reveals a fragmenting society dominated by despair and exploitation yet also the resourcefulness and courage of working-class citizens who survive where others would surely crack.”

Reviewing for Crime Review, Linda Wilson enjoyed it somewhat reluctantly, admitting that “I found myself almost as caught up with Claire’s obsession as she was.”

Meanwhile, Tory Crime writer N.J. Cooper really disliked it; writing for Book Oxygen, she even described one of the characters as “a fake-tanned slapper.” Ouch!

I’d also draw your attention towards this review by Martin Randall, which is particularly eloquent and thoughtful. It’s also very generous to the book, but Martin is a friend and colleague so he kind of had to be!

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