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Forever Home: Graham Norton’s latest cosy crime yarn is another entertaining read

The TV chatshow host has cemented his place as a comic chronicler of the idiosyncrasies and strange goings on of small-town Ireland

Forever Home
Author: Graham Norton
ISBN-13: 9781529391398
Publisher: Coronet
Guideline Price: £20

The list of celebrities who have published novels is long and weird. Did the world really need YA dystopia from Kylie and Kendall Jenner, or stream-of-consciousness blather from Morrissey? Even Tom Hanks couldn’t win over critics with his 2017 short story collection, Uncommon Type. But it seems the world could always do with more Graham Norton.

The much-loved chatshow host made a smooth landing in the literary sphere when he published his first novel, Holding, in 2016. A Keeper (2018) and Home Stretch (2020) followed, cementing his place as a comic chronicler of the idiosyncrasies and strange goings on of small-town Ireland. His latest, Forever Home, sees him in familiar territory, with a mystery set in the fictional town of Ballytoor.

Like Richard Osman, his fellow TV host turned author, Graham Norton seems primed to capitalise on the seemingly insatiable market for cosy crime

Carol has lived for years in a grand old terraced house with the “second love of her life”, Declan. Declan’s wife has long since disappeared, having left “poor Mr Barry” and their children without a trace, many years previously. That’s all in the past, or so it seems, until Declan falls ill and ends up in permanent care, and disputes over ownership of the house end up uncovering darker secrets involving, you guessed it, a dead body.

Like his fellow TV host turned author Richard Osman, Norton seems primed to capitalise on the seemingly insatiable market for cosy crime. Forever Home is likely to please a great many people with its gently humorous, clear and unfussy writing. In many ways the book reads like a TV series. Its structure is of a type; its world-building is strong (chapters often begin with a wide-pan shot of the town, the houses, the eccentric characters, before zeroing in on the scene at hand); and its characters are well-developed, with individual storylines that feed into the larger plot. Norton is good on bristling relationships and catty exchanges – “this is a family matter now”, says Declan’s son with “a bruising lack of subtlety” when Carol implores him not to sell the house. The “Irish mammy” archetype also gets a good outing, with Carol’s captious, scheming, yet formidable mother driving much of the action and humour.

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Forever Home is more or less what a Norton book promises: a pleasant and pleasurable read. It holds the reader’s attention (though I did find myself waiting for a twist that never came) and entertains. As for that extra something that makes a good book great. What’s it Norton says when he pulls that red-chair lever? Next!

Niamh Donnelly

Niamh Donnelly, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and critic