With A City of Strangers
, award-winning novelist Robert Barnard, acclaimed for his quick wit and astute insight into the vagaries of class distinction and human foible, achieves a new level of mastery.
He also creates one of his most memorable characters ever: the dreadful Jack Phelan. Dirty, potbellied, vulgar, selfish, Jack is a man everyone loves to hate. And the rest of his family isn’t much better. The wife is slatternly, the teenaged children flirt with petty crime and prostitution, even the baby is unpleasant. Only twelve-year-old Michael Phelan seems to have escaped the family curse, and it may be just a question of time until he, too, sinks to the Phelan level.
For years the infamous Phelans, known with equal horror to the Social Security office and the local school, have lived in slovenly squalor in their council house in the run-down Belfield Grove Estate in the northern English city of Sleate.
The Phelans’ infamy has even penetrated the middle-class bastion of respectability, Wynton Lane, where six imposing Victorian stone houses stand in fearful isolation next to Belfield Grove.
Wynton Lane and Belfield Grove have only their unfortunate proximity in common until the fateful day when the Phelans come to call. It seems that Jack has won big on the pools, and he’s thinking of buying one of the six houses.
Nothing so exciting has ever happened on Wynton Lane, and the homeowners hope it never will again. Until now barely nodding acquaintances the Wynton Lane residents call an urgent meeting to map an emergency strategy. What can they do to stop Jack Phelan?
What indeed? The Wynton Lane people have always thought of themselves as law-abiding, but they soon discover that malice can take on a momentum of its own, a momentum that can even lead to murder.
Shocking, mesmerizing, incisive, A City of Strangers
leaves a deep impression on the reader and confirms the artistry of a superb novelist in his prime.