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by Alison Taylor
Arrow, February 2002
403 pages
$5.99 UK Pounds
ISBN: 0099272091

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A student at the exclusive girls' boarding school on the outskirts of Bangor, North Wales, The Hermitage, goes missing. We know Sukie Melville has been murdered by another, unnamed student, but her absence is not reported to the police for over 24 hours. Her body washes up on the shore of the Menai Straits and the search is on.

The Hermitage is run by an ex-army officer who doesn't coddle her charges. The school looks posh on the surface but the students live in a decaying manor house, of which only part has been restored. The girls are encouraged to settle arguments among themselves and not to bother the staff but this does not make them stronger, as the head want to believe.

Superintendant Michael McKenna brings his team in to try and see beneath the surface. The girls are mostly rich, but not of the top social classes, or as Inspector Morse once said "The cream of British society, thick and rich" but, in this case, curdled. They have cliques, there are bullies, there are jealousies, but Dr. Scott, the Head, does nothing to mitigate the frictions caused by children living without the moderating influence of parents and siblings. The usual cast is there, Jack Tuttle, Dewi Prys, Janet Evans, all accepted in Wales as the Superintendant, with his Irish heritage is not.

The crime is solved but not before we get involved with the lives of these poor children, whose parent's don't seem to care enough to carefully examine the milieu into which they have sent their offspring. Taylor was a social worker who blew the whistle on the abuse of children in care in Wales. In this book, she shows there is little difference between the poor and the rich. If you like dark, dense police procedurals, with empathetic characters, try one of her books. Her characters are just slightly off-center, police and protagonists alike.

This book is not available in the US yet. You can mail order from Crime in Store in London (CrimeBks@aol.com)

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, March 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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