The Judas Pair

What I learned from… ‘The Judas Pair’ by Jonathan Gash

The Judas PairAbout the book

Every antique dealer is a bit of a detective, following clues to find the trophies that pay the rent, but when Lovejoy takes on the job of tracking down a pair of duelling pistols so rare that he’s not even sure actually exist, he needs all the instincts of a detective to pick his way through an unsolved crime.

Along the way, he becomes convinced that the weapons do exist but that they have fallen into the hands of a vile murderer. Locating the ancient weapons seems like the least of his problems when Lovejoy then finds himself fighting for his life in a duel to the death.

What I learned

Slightly ridiculously, I hadn’t realised the 90s Sunday night comedy drama Lovejoy was adapted from a series of books, so when I came across the first in the series I had to give it a go.

The Judas Pair introduces to the emponymous antiques dealer-slash-rogue who finds himself hunting down a pair of antique pistols, which ends in a battle to the death. He’s also trying to avenge the death of a friend and his most recent lover (we get the sense that Lovejoy has been around a lot).

It’s no surprise this book was an award-winner in 1977. The prose is taut, the story a compelling page-turner that takes the reader into the dusty world of antique trading, peopled with equally roguish characters. It’s very different to most other thrillers I’ve read. The first-person narration takes us straight into Lovejoy’s world, and straight into his own doubts and neuroses. The author does this so effectively that at times I felt like I needed to look away. We see straight into the character, warts and all.

So that terrible day I sat and sat and did nothing to my records, left letters unanswered, didn’t pick up the phone.
For some reason I made a coal fire, a dirty habit I thought I’d given up. I shifted my electric fire, put newspaper in a heap in the grate, chopped wood and got it going first time. There was a residue of coal in the old coalbin by the back door so I set to burning that.
The cottage became warm, snug, and the day wore on. I had no control over my memories of Sheila as I watched the flames gleam and fash in the fire.
She had this habit of watching me, not just glancing now and again to check I was still around and not up to no good, but actively and purposely inspecting me. I might be doing nothing; still she’d watch, smiling as it engaged in a private humorous conversation at my foibles. It made me mad with her at first, but you get used to a particular woman, don’t you?

Lovejoy is fully-rounded, fallible and lonely. And he’s quite different to the character depicted on TV. He’s very much an unreconstructed man of the 1970s, and is, a complete bastard in many ways. But Jonathan Gash skilfully makes the reader feel sympathy for him, despite what he does. He’s a lonely man, without much of a purpose in life other than seeking out the next deal. The people who surround him are equally hard-bitten, devious and unsympathetic.

Gash manages to convey all of this in a murder-mystery plot that keeps the reader guessing till the end. And it’s only 200 pages long, like he’s managed to boil down the plot and character to their most essential elements. And it’s all the more powerful for that.

More about this book

Published in 1977 by Hachette

The Judas Pair at Hachette

Jonathan Gash at Coombs Moylett Maclean

About ‘What I learned…’

I read anything and everything and think there’s writing inspiration to take from from books of every genre.

Read all reviews



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *