The New Policeman Review by Lauren Redmond
Title- The new Policeman
Author- Kate Thompson
Publisher- Red Fox
Genre- YA Fantasy, Irish fiction,
Rating- 4/5 stars
Time has run out in the Irish village of Kinvara. So much so, JJ Liddy has no time for his schoolwork, Irish music, ceilis and the sudden revelation that his great grandfather murdered the village priest. His mother wishes for time for her birthday which seems like an impossible task for JJ until eccentric German neighbour Anne Korff finally makes it a very real and surprising possibility. Anne Korff has uncovered a portal leading to the ancient land of Tir Na Og, where JJ goes in search of time and along the way he meets memorable characters like Aengus Og, Drowsy Maggie and Tom Devaney with his distinctly ovine bodhran.
Kate Thompson isn’t from Ireland, but nobody would know that by ever reading the New Policeman. She’s also an accomplished fiddler which is reflected in the book the New Policeman and on top of that has also won numerous awards for her work. Needless to say, such a successful author has written a book that completely enthralled me from start to finish and had me invested every step of the way. Time and the treatment of Irish myths and Legends are essential in its rich plot, in which JJ Liddy is left solely responsible for gifting his mother the gift of time for her birthday. Tir Na Og itself is a place where time stands still, no hunger, illness and death are present but time has been gradually leaking from our world into that of the fairies causing an imbalance, and before long JJ must find the source of the leak and help save both his realms and that of the fairies. Unbeknownst to him the time leak is also being investigated in the real world of Kinvara by the titular new policeman. On top of this, JJ must also seek to uncover the dark secrets of his family’s pasts and the disturbing fact that his great-grandfather murdered the local priest.
What I did love about this somewhat epic feel of blending myth and legend with the real may also be the psychical copy of the book- namely the trad music sheets that separate each new chapter. These are a very nice and unique touch. Each character also felt very real and natural to me, particularly JJ who has real motives for going on the quest in the first place and once in Tir Na Og, there are several instances of genuine bravery and a certain natural likeability to him- he’s also seen dealing with real concerns and has believable problems- such as JJ worrying that he’ll be teased at school if he takes up Irish dancing and being Irish myself this is a very real possibility. The same natural likeability was conveyed in other characters like Aengus Og, the titular ‘New Policeman’ and even the minor ones like Drowsy Maggie and Anne Korff.
The story contains the unique blend and meanderings of Irish mythology throughout but also with sci-fi like time leaks and the additions of real-life Irish social history such as the dominance of religion and the mentioning of ‘mother and baby homes.’ gave the book a more grown up, serious tone which I felt was appropriate for the story.
What I didn’t like about the book was not in any way to do with plot, theme or character but in the presentation of the book itself. Chapters are far too short and seem under developed- some are only a page long and leave the reader searching for more and wishing each scene was more fleshed out and developed. I didn’t like this as it made some parts feel rushed, some titles of chapters are nothing to do with what will happen in the chapter which has the effect of building up the reader for something different but usually the chapter name has very little to do with the chapter itself which I found confusing. The title of the book, ‘The New Policeman’ did not fit the story at all and though there is a new policeman evident in the book he isn’t the main character, the title of the book simply wasn’t fitting at all to me, but then this is just a nitpick to me.
There wasn’t very much I didn’t like in this book, apart from Thompson’s strange naming decisions, namely the title of the book itself and chapter names and lengths, but these problems seem to only relate to the names and format of the book itself. Everything else within the book such as plot and characters made it one very enjoyable book. There are also several really good and unexpected twists that delighted and surprised me that admittedly I did not see coming- namely that regarding the identity of the new policeman, and the exact cause of the time leak. Both stories in the fairy realm and the real world kept me gripped and interested from start to end. I never saw any of the plot twists coming and once they did they genuinely surprised me and I could see than how they all made sense which is just the right amount of subtle surprise needed in a book. I would recommend the book to a mature audience from 13- 15 but since I read it and completely enjoyed it, anybody can readily read it without feeling that they’re reading a simple fairy story. The New Policeman is anything but a simple fairy story.