How do we trust each other?
Alexa is a young police community support officer whose world feels unstable. Her father is estranged and her girlfriend is increasingly distant. Their polyamorous relationship – which for years felt so natural – is starting to seem strained. As she patrols Sheffield she senses the rising tensions in its disparate communities and doubts her ability to keep the peace, to help, to change anything.
Caron is pushing Alexa away and pushing herself ever harder. A climber, she fixates on a brutal route known as Black Car Burning and throws herself into a cycle of repetition and risk. Leigh, who works at a local gear shop, watches Caron climb and feels complicit.
Meanwhile, an ex-police officer compulsively revisits the April day in 1989 that changed his life forever. Trapped in his memories of the disaster, he tracks the Hillsborough inquests, questioning everything.
As the young women negotiate the streets of the city and its violent inheritance, the rock faces of Stanage and their relationships with each other, the urban and natural landscape watches over them, an ever-present witness. Black Car Burning is a brilliant debut novel of trust and trauma, fear and falling, from one of our best young writers.
"A love letter to [Mort's] home city of Sheffield... Politics and landscape are fiercely intertwined in the history of South Yorkshire, and Mort now demonstrates that she can write as assuredly on both subjects in novel form as in her poetry... Mort, in a beautifully accomplished debut, has blended a rich alloy: a deeply felt work of loss, time and healing"
Black Car Burning explores the ties that bind us: literally, while strung across a cliff face in high winds, or figuratively in the tenuous bonds that hold both relationships and communities together, and which we are all responsible for maintaining. It's especially gratifying to inhabit a female-focused world within a climbing scene still party defined by machismo and male bravado. Helen Mort's writing is confident and compassionate and this is a mature and evocative debut"
"Mort has reined in the poetry to write a gritty northern novel in a lean, unflashy prose, only letting herself go in lyrical interludes spoken by the landscape itself"
"Bold, imaginative…intensely realistic, swarming with minute physical and social detail… Mort writes brilliantly about the physical presence of the city, and she deals just as well with the tight focus of the climb... [Black Car Burning] is frequently exhilarating in its accurate sympathy, with some inch-perfect dialogue and astute observation throughout… Poet writes gripping novel: now there’s something you don’t hear every day"
"An impressive, Sheffield-set tale… the disparate voices are held together by short passages in which the landscape itself is given voice. These act as welcome poetic rocks in the stream of the narrative… [and] are startling reminders of Mort’s considerable poetic skill"