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Martin, Andrew

... the jangling of a barrel-organ, like a man walking down a street kicking bottles and somehow making a tune of it

There's something truly unique about Andrew Martin's style in his Jim Stringer books, an extraordinary direct access not just to what the narrator is thinking but also to the whole context and hinterland of what he's thinking. I don't know York – a long way from Sheffield, southern frontier-guard of the great county – and was not actually around in the Edwardian era, but Martin's writing conveys a clear and individual feel of both locations.

In fact, the only possible comparison I can make is (strange coincidence) with Sewell Ford's New York at very much the same date. It's a measure of Martin's skill that the details he has had to learn about come across as actual and taken for granted, exactly the same as Ford's details written from simple experience.

Add to this an ear capable of noticing the timbre of a barrel-organ or the background noise in a gas-lit room and a style capable of conveying what he's noticed ... enviable. I pay his books the ultimate compliment: I never try to read them while doing something else at the same time.