book cover of Needless Alley
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Needless Alley

(The first book in the William Garrett series)
A novel by

An FT Best Summer Thriller 2023

'Creates an atmosphere of mounting menace'
The Times

'Conjures up a backdrop so vivid you can taste the smoke in the air' Val McDermid, author of


Private enquiry agent William Garrett facilitates divorces for the city's male elite. With the help of his best friend - charming, out-of-work actor Ronnie Edgerton - William sets up honey traps. But photographing unsuspecting women
in flagrante plagues his conscience and William heaves up his guts with remorse after every job.

William's life changes when he meets the beautiful Clara Morton and falls in love. Little does he know she is the wife of a client - a leading fascist with a dangerous obsession. Soon, what should have been another straightforward job turns into something far more deadly.

Drenched in evocative period atmosphere and starring an unforgettable cast of characters, Needless Alley takes the reader from seedy canal-side pubs, to crumbling Warwickshire manor houses, and into the hidden spaces of Birmingham's Queer, bohemian society.

'Has all the seamy glitter and cynical grime of the genre'
Daily Mail

'Marlow's very engaging protagonist may herald the birth of a new genre: Midlands Noir'
Financial Times

'Evokes 1930s Birmingham in all its dark glory' Alan Parks, author of
Bloody January

Needless Alley makes for a gripping read that any Peaky Blinder fan is sure to love' Susan Stokes-Chapman, author of Pandora
Genre: Historical Mystery

Praise for this book

"Needless Alley is a great murder mystery, rich in character and detail and darker than a Black Country canal at midnight." - Peter Hanington

"Needless Alley, Marlow's debut is crime fiction gold. Every word is crafted with care; every plot twist is elegantly presented. And at the heart of it all is a heinous crime that begs to be solved by a hero as full of heart as he is driven. I love everything about this book." - Femi Kayode

"From its claustrophobic descriptions of Birmingham's darker corners to revelations of the seedier proclivities of the rich and powerful, Needless Alley offers a gripping portrait of 1930s England, a country where Blackshirts and fascism have entered the national psyche. William Garrett - dour, dark, and damaged - is a man of principle in an unprincipled vocation. A meditative and wonderfully written historical crime debut." - Vaseem Khan

"Marlow beautifully distils 1930s Birmingham into a seamy world of moral corruption: anyone can fall and few are left clean. Gripping, confident and atmospheric." - Kate Mascarenhas

"Down these mean Brummie streets a man must go . . . and on the strength of Natalie Marlow's cracking debut, I'll be following. An elegantly written, meticulously researched 1930s noir thriller, with a twisting, turning plot and vivid characters both utterly of their time and powerfully resonant of our own." - Robbie Morrison

"Crafted with all the style and elegance of classic hardboiled fiction, lovingly splashed in the grubbiness and grime of interwar Birmingham's cuts, alleys and back streets. A smart, ripping yarn, whose compelling hero is movingly supported by a cast of lived in characters, and put through the wringer by some shocking and moving revelations. Sensational start to a new series." - Dominic Nolan

"Needless Alley not only evokes 1930s Birmingham in all its dark glory - it introduces characters that are impossible to forget. Read it." - Alan Parks

"Needless Alley is great - dark, gritty and full of unexpected twists and turns." - Frances Quinn

"1930s Birmingham is brought expertly to life in this atmospheric crime noir where corruption and seedy entanglements lurk down every darkly lit street. Compelling and clever, Needless Alley makes for a gripping read that any Peaky Blinder fan is sure to love." - Susan Stokes-Chapman

"A Chandleresque hard-boiled detective novel with an atmospheric, horrifying feel all of its own. Tightly plotted and beautifully written, a world of Blackshirts and misogyny with a flawed, human detective who I took straight to my heart." - Harriet Tyce

"As with every atmospheric mystery, it's all about the lighting, and Natalie Marlow illuminates the hard-boiled players in this thrilling debut with all the dexterity of any of our great noir novelists. You will wince, you will gasp, you will shudder at every turn, and you will want to keep reading until that last light dims at the disquieting end." - J M Varese

"Deftly plotted, beautifully written, Needless Alley is a delicious slice of Chandleresque Midlands noir. Marlow's pellucid prose shines a brilliant light on 1930s Birmingham and the lives and loves of the exquisitely drawn characters that populate its mean streets and waterways. I loved this book and I can't wait to read more." - Mark Wightman

"A terrific debut. It's not often that historical fiction gets this down and dirty, but Natalie Marlow has delivered dark and twisted in spades. I urge you to take a stroll down Needless Alley, but you might want to watch your back as you do . . ." - Trevor Wood

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