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by Patricia Hall
Allison & Busby, November 2002
273 pages
17.99 GBP
ISBN: 0749005599

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A teenager falls to his death from a tower block on the troubled Wuthering Heights council estate. Meanwhile another youngster from a more privileged background is in hospital after taking Ecstasy then walking out under a car on his way out of a nightclub. There are sharp differences in reactions towards the two incidents. Young black kid Derek was known as a junkie though his mum and friends say he was clean when he died. Schoolboy Jeremy is the son of a leading local businessman.

The police are soon under pressure from a campaign by Jeremy's father and supported by the Bradfield Gazette to close the Carib club, find the person who sold Jeremy his pills, "lock up whoever we can find to blame and throw away the key". Inspector Michael Thackeray is told by his boss to concentrate on this case and leave worrying about the Heights and the death there to the drug squad. His girlfriend Laura Ackroyd, a Gazette reporter, is also told in no uncertain terms what to concentrate on: Jeremy and his friends are a better story than "toerags" with nothing better to do on the Heights.

Sergeant Kevin Mower makes a welcome return from the depths of alcoholic despair in this book (it's a testament to the quality of Hall's characterisation that I was really very worried about this man since I read Deep Freeze, the previous book). Still on sick leave, he's helping out on a computer project for estate kids, to give them an alternative to crime and drugs. And beginning a flirtation with Donna Maitland who runs the Project, though she doesn't know his identity as a policeman, and she knows he's holding back from any real commitment.

My other favourite series character, Laura's grandmother, increasingly fragile but still determined to fight for justice in Bradfield in whatever way she can, is also around.

Patricia Hall's forte is her very strong, very real seeming characters, who can't easily be persuaded to go back into her books when I shut them. But this is a very bleak episode in an increasingly sad series as characters I care about are increasingly frustrated by the difficulty of making a positive impact, of getting justice for people, and making the town a better place to live in. And while some mysteries are solved, the same could not be said of the problems that those doing the detecting uncover.

Reviewed by Luci Davin, January 2003

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