As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2 March 2015. ISBN: 978-1-7802-2634-7 (PB)
One of the best things about crime fiction is that it’s a very broad
category. Self-styled literature experts sometimes dismiss it as commercial and
second-rate, but that’s only because their experience of it is very narrow. And
sometimes, a novel comes along which is indisputably about crime, but breaks
the boundaries and reinvents the definition.
The Enchanted is one of those novels. In many ways it follows a
conventional path. It’s set in a maximum-security prison; the main narrator is
a prisoner on Death Row; it tracks the progress of an investigation; there’s
more than one murder. The ending is right, and satisfying; cosmic justice is
served in more than one case; both good and bad characters get what they
Yet it resembles no other
crime novel I’ve ever read. It brings the grim prison to appalling, often
stomach-turning life using language and images that are always rich and often
poetic. The prisoner-narrator’sobservations, interpretations and descriptions of what goes on around
him are imaginative and elegant, although he himself is shrunken, withdrawn and
on his own admission an inadequate excuse for a human being.
The other main character – I
hesitate to use the word protagonist, since it implies an element of power, and
she would be the first to deny that she has any – is an investigator whose job
is to find reasons for the reprieve of Death Row prisoners. In this case she is
dealing with a man who only wants to die, and has no desire whatever to accept
her services. Working through the dilemma this presents has a profound effect
on her, and this imbues the narrative with a sense of hope and leads to an
uplifting ending despite the inevitable sense of tragedy which surrounds Death
The novel’s chief strength
lies in its almost tactile evocation of settings and exquisite use of language,
but Rene Denfeld also has a keen eye for characters, and several stand out: the
lady herself, the damaged former priest who works with the prisoners, the
sensitive prison warden who is living through his own tragedy, the prisoner
whose case is under review, the narrator-prisoner’s disabled aunt are only a
few. Other stories are threaded delicately through the main narrative,
including a young boy singled out for special attention by powerful prisoners,
and the machinations of the corrupt chief guard.
It’s one of those books which
shouldn’t work but somehow does, gripping and enthralling from the outset. The
author is herself an investigator of the kind she portrays, and has used her
first-hand knowledge and deeply felt impressions to excellent effect.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Rene Denfeld is an author, journalist, and death penalty
investigator. Her debut novel, The
Enchanted was recently published to much acclaim, including a nomination
for the esteemed Flaherty-Dunnan fiction prize. She has written for The New
York Times Magazine, The Oregonian, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her
nonfiction books include the international bestseller The New Victorians, KillThe
Body, The Head Will Fall; and All
God's Children. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her three children, all
adopted from foster care. She loves parenting, gardening and volunteering with
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.