Book Review: Black Moss by David Nolan

Considering it is November 30th, you would think it’s time for Joyful Antidotes to start making way for Christmas stories full of magic and light. Not this book blog. Today, I have a wonderfully chilling thriller to share.

Black Moss by David Nolan begins in April 1990, as rioters take over Strangeways prison in Manchester. At the same time, someone kills a little boy at Black Moss. The only person to care is Danny Johnston, an inexperienced radio reporter trying to make a name for himself. More than a quarter of a century later, Danny returns to his home city to revisit the murder that’s always haunted him.

Man did this book grip me. At times I was literally at the edge of my seat. The story is amazing, full of red herrings, and with an ending that is worth it all. But Black Moss is more than just an excellently plotted book.

Let’s discuss the characters. Each character within this book is there for a reason. That reason might not be apparent at first but everything is tied up in a neat package at the end. I’ve recently started studying the dynamics of writing a good book and making sure not to include redundant information is key. I never really thought much about this before but when I read a book like Black Moss that leaves me feeling like not one word was a waste, my level of admiration for the author raises.

To be honest, I liked all the characters in Black Moss, both good and bad, in some way or another. However, for the sake of this review, I want to narrow in on Danny. Danny is a realistic character and I appreciate that. Especially in crime stories, the main characters are often unrelatable; they are either too evil or too angelic. Danny has a big heart but he is no way perfect. We see this especially in the latter years and as we learn more about Danny’s many mistakes. He doesn’t always make the right decision, but who does? I liked that.

Both Danny and the unsolved case of the murdered child unravel through a mix of chapters hopping between present and past. We delve even deeper into Danny’s mind during chapters in which he speaks with a psychiatrist. These chapters are an efficient way of learning his thoughts and feelings without drawn out chapters. In fact, the chapters in this book are pretty short. I’m not sure if they add to the pace/tension of the story or if they are somewhat ineffective.

One final note about Black Moss is that this is not simply a book about a murdered child or a reporter with issues. David Nolan touches on something much deeper as a sub-theme: kids who become lost or forgotten about in the care system. This is what hit home hardest for me and will no doubt bring a tear to your eye.

Overall, I feel like I can’t fault Black Moss at all. Give it a read for yourself and see if you agree.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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