‘Dangerous People’ by Lesley Hayes

“Life the way it really is – messy and paradoxical and rife with ambiguity.”

This is the fourth book by this author that I have read, and I am convinced that she is a major literary talent whose novels deserve to be ranked alongside the greatest novelists this country has ever produced. There are trenchant remarks worthy of Martin Amis – “Osborne had been known to clear rooms with the stench of his sarcasm”. There are shrewd observations worthy of Jane Austen: “Although not much older, Lewis had been practising middle age for the last ten years at least.” She can be very funny – “She was wearing a haphazard mixture of bright pinks, reds and orange that someone like Violet might have carried off with panache. On Sophie’s ample form its discordance was more likely to trigger a migraine”. Her introduction of characters is deft and their development assured and perceptive: “She was useless at listening. She was far too self-absorbed.” She is also very wise: “the world is as we see it, not necessarily how it is, and we find what we are looking for.”

lesley-hayes-dangerous-peopleThe toxic seeds that Lewis sows take root, and as with all of Lesley Hayes’ books, one is dreadfully afraid that everything and everyone will finally crash and burn. Rest assured that you will be saved at the end by the author’s generosity and compassion, having made it clear to her readers just how badly things could have turned out (as they often do in ‘real’ life). These are the machinations of deeply damaged and deluded individuals, and the tragedy, as always, is not so much in the misery that so many people live with and through, but that in the process, there is such a needless waste of good.

There are so many shrewd observations of human behaviour, couched in restrained, sharp prose: “He began to chew at his lip, trying to hear what she wasn’t saying.” “And in her world, the evil world where adult justice prevailed and children were powerless, what Osborne had in mind was exactly what dads did.” As with A Field Beyond Time, The Drowned Phoenician Sailor and Round Robin, Dangerous People delivers on all fronts. An engrossing read, this is a worthy addition to the Lesley Hayes canon, and I recommend it without reservation.