“The words, the story in the air. The murderer knows more than we do. It’s a story. A long, twisted tale.”
House is no Doors is the second novel to feature Detective Harry Hobbes [ed. the first was Slow Motion Ghosts]. Set in London of the early 1980s, the novel begins when Hobbs receives a call from his sidekick DS Latimer. What initially seems to be a routine investigation into the suicide of a reclusive octogenarian slowly reveals itself to be more complex, revolving around an old rambling house and a dysfunctional theatrical family.
The house where the initial investigation takes place is named Bridlemere. It is a stark rundown structure filled with secrets, mysteries, labyrinthine corridors with hidden rooms and an overgrown garden. It is the perfect setting for an intricate murder mystery.
As well as investigating the suicide, Hobbs must contend with his own delinquent son, his recently ended marriage, a member of his investigating team who is recovering from a breakdown and the murder of a suspect in the case. Quite an amount to contend with and one which pushes Hobbs close to the edge.
For his part Hobbs is a conscientious policeman. In the past he has railed against police corruption and brutality. The result being fellow officers in his station view him with suspicion. But Hobbs is a dedicated officer, determined despite the lack of answers to come to a solution.
“He didn’t like it one bit, the idea of not knowing. His entire being burned against such a notion.”
An atmosphere of near doom pervades the novel. We are in a very dark time in Hobbs’ life, while in London you can still hear echoes of the Brixton riots. Britain is in the midst of seismic social changes. The old certainties are being dismantled and from it a new order is emerging. Where that eventually takes the country remains to be seen.
Despite being slow and methodical the novel manages to maintain its grip throughout. Hobbs relies on instinct occasionally this is successful though sometimes it leaves him rendered a laughing stock amongst his peers.
Any Cop: Author Jeff Noon is better known as one of the main proponents of British Sci-fi. His novel Vurt is a seminal work in the genre. With House with no Doors, an intelligent gripping novel Jeff Noon continues to explore a genre ripe for him to dominate.