British author David Peace has received high acclaim for his “Red Riding Quartet” of crime novels that conclude with the Nineteen Eighty-Three installment. The New Statesman says that “rarely has the crime novel managed to say something more serious and enduring than in Peace’s masterful quartet.”
This fourth and final novel in the quartet continues the saga begun over a decade earlier and features characters who have pervaded all of the novels in the series to date. The mood has changed slightly - the setting is the early 1980s - but things in the Northern part of the United Kingdom seem to have stood still. As the denizens of that area continue to view themselves as insulated from the rest of the country - and above the law, to some extent - the corruption and suspicion over the brutal murders that have haunted that territory remain unsolved.
In Nineteen Eighty-Three, Peace focuses on two primary characters: corrupt Yorkshire Officer Maurice Jobson, and a young street hustler/male prostitute known simply as BJ. BJ has been seen throughout the novels and was even present at the climactic conclusion of the first novel, Nineteen Seventy-Four, that included the death of
Yorkshire Post reporter Eddie Dunford.
Invading the world inhabited by Officer Jobson and BJ is an ambitious and determined lawyer by the name of John Piggot. Piggot is initially turned on to the investigation by a neighbor of his who solicits his assistance. Her son has been falsely accused of the terrible series of murders that have rocked the community in Northern England, and she begs Piggot to visit the prison where he is being kept and interview him. Upon doing so, Piggot realizes that clearly this simple-minded young man has been railroaded by the corrupt justice system and could not have had anything to do with these murders.
The Yorkshire region is not prepared to give up one of their own, no matter how much evidence turns up. With Maurice Jobson, BJ and John Piggot all conducting their own individual jaunts into the corruption and murderous cover-ups, it is inevitable that the truth will have to come out, and the fallout from those exposed might threaten the entire area. In a stunning climax, the corrupt powers that be recognize that the only way to salvage things is to turn out the bad seed that has actually been behind the abductions and slayings - but he might not go away so easily.
With the final installment, Peace neatly wraps up a deeply-layered series that never fails to engage and entertain. I applaud him on both the success his novels have enjoyed as well as the recent acclaim from the trilogy of “Red Riding” films based on the series. A truly dark and daring feat of crime fiction that is highly recommended.