Written by: James Keen
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
Mark Kidwell’s novella, ‘Yellow’ is a narrative with quite a few horrifically depicted jolts but it’s also, due to its brevity, equipped with a literary safety mechanism when it comes to reviewing it responsibly. There’s a tricky balancing act necessary in terms of how much a reviewer can reveal in a critical fashion without wholly spoiling the overall conceit.
Opening with a disorienting and gruesome scene involving the slaughter of a family, it’s an establishing gambit that serves to underline Kidwell’s narrative intent to unnerve the reader and closes with the arrival of the law enforcement units, and this line, “only one of the officers had time to scream”. From the outset, it is clear that Kidwell is implementing a certain unreserved descriptive manner to engage the reader. And it’s a tactic that he deploys in a gripping and interesting manner, snagging the reader”s attention from the get-go in his vividly depicted, gory scenario.
Kidwell’s protagonists are familiar staples from crime fiction; we have happily married family man, Aldo Green, a seasoned detective partnered with his old friend, Mike Bennet, an alcoholic loner type afraid of commitment. Both are engaged in investigating a series of exceptionally grisly murders involving whole families. Kidwell manages to inject humour and pathos into this weary old trope of the mismatched cop dynamic we’ve seen untold times before in books and movies. Aldo is a teetotaller, advising his partner in a needling fashion to settle down with his current girlfriend, the “gorgeous dishwater blonde divorced mother of two” Karen Jenkins. The likeable banter between the two is admirably offset by the increasingly disturbing developments of the plot.
‘Yellow’ however, sadly starts to fall apart as we learn more of the mythology underpinning Kidwell’s tale, coupled with the author’s somewhat repetitive descriptions of his characters and their proclivities. One character smokes, smokes and smokes some more, constantly referred to as being large in stature or ‘big’. Whether that is big-footed, big in build, having a big shadow, it all becomes wearying to read, as is the repetitive use of decidedly cliched dialogue, to wit, “it’s the job, man You know that…”, “they’d both seen too much, waded too deep”, and awkwardly constructed sentences such as, “He needed to know what had gone on in the Green house this evening. He needed to know and he needed to know now”.
Kidwell is an engagingly descriptive writer and he’s more than capable of imbuing his narrative with an almost palpable tension, but the subject matter he delineates here goes very quickly from the terrifying and intriguingly strange to the outright ridiculous in a very short space of narrative time.
Order Yellow right here.