Set in England, the backdrop is the disappearance and murder of young girls. A hue and cry goes out. The tabloids bay for blood, the police are under pressure. The usual suspects, literally, are rounded and hounded. One in particular, a convicted paedophile with insight into his condition, gives help, understanding and succour to the mother of one of the victims, to the chagrin of her partner.
There are several strands of narrative which are expertly and seamlessly sewn and woven together which coalesce with aplomb at the end – which I shan’t give away. One of the strands is a family man who seeks private treatment from a leftfield private clinic for his burgeoning feelings he has towards children.
I’ve personally never read this subject before in any work of fiction and this does break a dark but new ground and one well worth exploring. I shuddered while reading this strand. I admit to being shocked at first and I wondered where on earth it would lead.
It led me to the very end of the book which I read inside three days flat – a fast feat for this blog. Sugar and Spice is not just a piece of well written, well paced, heart stopping crime fiction but has been built on a bedrock of detailed and in-depth research.
This research, which I understand was years in the doing, has resulted in dressing the characters, plot and storyline in robes of depth and credibility. Empathy even. Empathy is a much bandied about word but to ascribe empathy to a character who, according to popular culture, is a monster, takes great skill and literary dexterity in negotiating some very precarious literary paths.
Do it too well, one would suspect the novel of having its own questionable agenda. Do it badly and the novel becomes a populist one dimensional foghorn from which one would learn nothing.
This novel is neither for the reasons I’ve given above. Given the subject matter, this is no mean feat. Considering how well Saffina has pulled this off, one can only imagine what her other and future works would be like assuming she tackles less controversial subjects.
But I dont want her to retreat into the warm beds of literary safety. In this largely post-taboo world, whatever taboos that remain happen to be uber-taboos, taboos that dare not speak even their names. That is not to say that piercing the membranes of ignorance with the spears of literature equates to giving sympathy to them or being the thin end of the wedge.
Empathy and understanding is the spirit of awareness and education and exposition. Considering the de facto heavy moral responsibility the novelist has when venturing into the Terra Incognitas of unexplored taboo-laden subject matter, Saffina has understandably, written more exposition that would be needed or required in other crime novels but for this venture into a highly controversial area, it is very much needed for imparting of cold fact and information without equivocation or ambiguity.,
This book has no doubt, ruffled a few feathers and made a few people uncomfortable but it’s been done in an bold, gracious and extremely well written and responsible manner with no forays in salaciousness or sensationalism.
Dare I say this is a ground breaking novel which I believe will be spoken off in many years to come? How many books can I say that off in recent times?
I commend this book and have given it 5/5 on Amazon.
Available for Kindle and Nook.