The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor review – a new light on Reservoir 13

The Costa award-winner returns to the scenes of his success with a collection of linked stories

Last April, when his Costa award-winning novel Reservoir 13 was published, Jon McGregor gave an interview in which he took polite issue with the praise heaped on him throughout his career for writing about “ordinary” lives. “It’s quite an othering statement,” he said. “My take is that nobody is ordinary to themselves. Everyone’s life story is interesting, complicated and nuanced.”

As a position, it’s irrefutable – but to me it seemed to undercut McGregor’s formal experiment. Despite Reservoir 13’s classic crime-fiction set-up (it opens with the New Year’s Eve disappearance of a 13-year-old girl), the book soon reveals itself to be the chronicle of a community, in which the lives of the inhabitants are merely threads in the wider warp and weft of village life. The novel is delivered almost entirely in ...