Today is my spot on a blog tour for a new work of fiction – which is a bit of a rarity, as I tend to be quite choosy about the modern writing I read. However, I always make an exception for Renard Press as, whether it’s a reprinted classic or a shiny new work, I’ve found all their releases to be quality ones. I recently wrote about Beth Train-Brown’s wonderful “Salmacis” poetry volume, and earlier covered an excellent collection of short stories from Miriam Burke. Today’s book is a novel – “Every Trick in the Book” by Iain Hood – and it’s a fascinating work which explores all manner of issues in a very cleverly written way.

“Every Trick…” opens by introducing us to what seems the perfect family: Paul and Julia Dorion and their two daughters Olivia and Sophie. The family live in north London, and are an idealistic one, looking to improve the world via their involvement in the ORGAN:EYES group which supports all manner of good causes. As the narrative reminds us, their home appears to represent the perfect Sunday Supplement life; but as the story goes on, it soon becomes clear that all is not what is seems.

Despite having been together for a couple of decades, Paul and Julia don’t actually seem to know all there is to know about each other. An encounter in a pub between Paul and an attractive young woman, who turns out to be a freelance journalist, raises the reader’s suspicions; and when he starts to travel a circuitous route around London for a dubious meeting it becomes clear that he is certainly not who he appears to be. For that matter, is Julia keeping secrets? How do their young daughters feel about what’s happening? And just where does Captain Beefheart fit into things?? Well, the reader will just have to keep on reading to try to find out, but in this world where nothing is as it seems, it’s not certain if all will be revealed…

“Every Trick…” is such a clever and brilliantly written book, and one which really keeps you on your toes! Hood captures modern London and its masses in all their variety, and there are crowd scenes where you realise that real communion, truth and understanding between humans might be impossible. The book also uses all sorts of tricks to unsettle the reader, from redactions through lists, pages of unattributed dialogue and a section set in a mental hospital, which all serve to undermine the reader’s sense of confidence in knowing who is who and what is what – very clever! The redactions in particular are unsettling, as are the listings of the routes Paul takes through London and the cameras which are tracking him – chilling stuff…

Core to the books is its explorations of notions of identity: how much do we *really* know about anyone else, are they who and what we think they are, and even after decades is a person putting up a facade; and actually, do we always know who we are ourselves! Hood’s style is deliberately experimental, drawing in everything from literary and cultural references to stream-of-consciousness; and at times he cleverly pulls the reader back from direct involvement in the narrative by pointing out what the author is doing, reminding us that this is a construct, a fictional work, and that we are outside it – another indication that identities in this story are always entirely nebulous. He really does employ every trick in the book!

I’ve deliberately kept my discussion of the plot of the book limited here, as I do think it helps to go into reading it with little foreknowledge; and it’s a plot that undercuts your expectations so often, as just as you think you’ve got a handle on what’s happening, Hood shifts the goalposts and you find yourself rethinking everything that’s gone before as well as reading everything that comes after for a double meaning.

As you might have gathered, I loved “Every Trick…”; I’m fond of meta narratives and books that play with conventions anyway, so this was always likely to be up my street! It’s a clever, thought-provoking work which looks at identity, surveillance, the lies we tell each other and just how easy it is to fool people. I’m still thinking about it days after finishing it, and in particular the emotional effect of the parents’ lies on their young daughters. This comes to the fore towards the end of the book and is a very moving strand.

So – another winner from Renard, one of my favourite indie publishers. They’ve published two of Iain Hood’s books so far and are to be applauded for this as, on the strength of “Every Trick in the Book”, he’s most definitely an author to watch! 😀

About the Author:

Iain Hood was born in Glasgow and grew up in the seaside town of Ayr. He attended the University of Glasgow and Jordanhill College, and later worked in education in Glasgow and the west country. He attended the University of Manchester after moving to Cambridge, where he continues to live with his wife and daughter. His first novel, This Good Book, was published in 2021.