Hodder & Stoughton has acquired Graham Norton's "darkly funny" fiction debut.
The work "heralds a bold new voice in the fiction market," according to Hodder. Set in a "small town with big secrets", Norton's novel packs "emotional clout", weaving black humour with "brilliantly observed" characters, the publisher said.
Characters incude a cast down policeman, a beautiful and mysterious family of three spinster sisters, "each with their own secrets and sorrows", and the town's gossip. The catalyst for these "half-lived lives and seething rivalries to come to light" is a grim discovery on a building site, revealing the town to have "a much darker, hungrier undertow".
Hodder publisher Hannah Black bought world rights to the as yet untitled novel from Melanie Rockliffe and Dylan Hearn at Troika.
She said: "I’m thrilled to be publishing Graham’s first novel and to be launching what we believe will be a major new career for him as a novelist. This is a darkly funny book, Graham is a skilled storyteller, the writing impressively broad and layered. He knows this world and he understands people, their secret passions, and motivations, and that is in part what helps to make this such an accomplished and compelling debut."
Norton said: "Like so many other people I've always wanted to write a novel and I'm both proud and shocked that I have finally done it."
"It's a mixture of mystery and romance set in a part of the world I love," he said. "When I read, I like a book that is driven by the plot and I hope that is what I've done in my own novel. It is very nerve wracking to finally be handing my story over to the world but I can truthfully say I have loved the time I have spent with these characters so now I just hope that readers do as well."