Crime writer Mark Billingham and country band My Darling Clementine come together for
The sense of place effectively developed through Billingham's use of the vernacular, and the band, makes for an enjoyable night out, at times moving, jaunty and witty.
With his amiable yet sardonic delivery, Billingham clearly enjoys himself as he runs through, and occasionally plays with, the cliches of country music characters, with themes covering infidelity, familial breakdown, and dying hopes of love forsaking all. These short tales are broken up and connected by the married twosome that make up My Darling Clementine. Lou Dalgleigh's voice stands out as she sings clearly and effortlessly, hitting the right tone for each song. In No matter what Tammy says, a powerful yet catchy song about domestic abuse, she starts off sultrily almost whispering, and ending soaring as in the best kind of power ballad. The lyrics are often touching, for example in exploring the feelings behind an affair in The other half, as Dalgleish despairs, “one and one is two it's true but I still hold a fraction of you, but it will never be as much as she.” A couple of jaunty numbers, for example in Going Back to Memphis and There's No Heart in this Heartache provide touches of humour and keep the pace foot-tapping along.
Billingham explains that his love of country music has led him to place it throughout his books, and here, having Marcia's bar as a magnet for all of lonely humanity is a neat concept to tie all the songs together, allowing the different stories to be brought around one conceptual space. However, the execution is perhaps too broad, and with so many characters there is little space for any plot or development. Despite promising a story of “lust, murder and domestic horror,” the range of characters and the limited glimpse of each lessens the drama and capacity for emotional depth. Still, the sense of place effectively developed through Billingham's use of the vernacular, and the band, makes for an enjoyable night out, at times moving, jaunty and witty.