28/08/2013 10:02 BST | Updated 27/10/2013 05:12 GMT

Book Review: Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda

Like most authors' early novels, Ivy Pochoda has decided to set her story within the confines of a familiar town. Red Hook, a small docklands in Brooklyn, is the backdrop of Pochoda's tale of diverse characters and small town community life, which together get caught up in an intertwining murder mystery that reeks of omission.


Two rather adventurously frustrated teenage girls decide to raft out into the bay, in protest to the boring options their lives appear to offer. Such a rebellious action soon turns sour, as one is washed up upon the shore, only to be discovered rather suspiciously by her music teacher. The other less adventurous girl called June remains missing. Thus the usual story tact where everybody's a suspect begins.

The story is a safe one. No doubt if you're a fan of crime dramas, then you have been taken on this journey before; pasts that come back to haunt the protagonists, with everyone in town has a connection to the victim, along with other various twists that one would expect to find, resulting in a cliché novel of the genre.

It is however, the books ease of flow that captures. Being a bit of a sucker for such fluid prose, it is certainly evident that Pochoda's first love is poetry. Combine this with the interactions between each of the characters bouncing back and forth with the ferocity of a heated squash ball, echoes of the authors studied and professional past reverberate throughout the pages. This helps to keep the book intelligently shifting its pace to match the stories mood and keeps the pages turning.

Red Hook's community is as diverse as it is solitary. Despite being a town on the edge of New York, this bay of Brooklyn, is portrayed as a rotting once success, with all of characters lives matching that same decay. The dealings with the tragedy within the first few chapters, reminded me so much of Twin Peaks; a good thing, as I happen to love that television show! Very much in the same guise as David Lynch's Community Opera, the inhabitants each have some degree of connection to the murder and the victim, appearing to be huddled close together. But with Pochoda's clever prose, it soon becomes evident that between each of the characters there lays a gulf of isolation. This makes for potential depth within the story, but is regrettably never fully explored.

What is an interesting device are the visitations of various ghosts. These help to expand and enumerate each of Pochoda's characters and the various networks that attach them. Without ruining too much of the story's structure; these apparitions are fascinations all within themselves and after each visit, it appears that the story is hitched up a level changing the stories pitch which, rather fascinatingly, I found that my reading became quicker, matching each of the newly introduced elevations.

Pochoda's prose and storytelling skill has managed with a clear and beautiful tact, to turn the town of Red Hook into the most fascinating character within the book. This makes the story both enchanting and tangible. Resulting in Visitation Street being worthy of the read.

Visitation Street is published by Sceptre and available to purchase from Amazon and all good bookshops.