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by Stuart Pawson
Allison and Busby, September 2004
288 pages
ISBN: 0749083026

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Stuart Pawson is one of the writers who never quite makes the breakthrough into the big time. OVER THE EDGE is the tenth in the Inspector Charlie Priest series -- and some of the earlier ones are harder to find than hens' teeth. But those nice people at Allison and Busby are reissuing some of those older classics. And with a bit of luck, Pawson will reach the wider audience he richly deserves.

If you like Reginald Hill and Peter Robinson, the chances are you'll fall on Pawson's books with glee. He has a wonderfully distinctive voice, a deceptively effortless writing style, and a strong sense of place. The plots, too, are generally water-tight.

OVER THE EDGE continues this tradition. Pawson juggles three seemingly disparate plot strands -- the death of shady businessman Joe Crozier, the murder of mountaineer Tony Krabbe (a schoolfriend of Charlie's) and the presence in the UK of eastern European teenager Ludmilla.

Unusually for Pawson, it took me a whole to get into the book and the first 70 or so pages were rather too talky when the plot needed moving along briskly. But once Krabbe is found dead with an icepick embedded in his head, it's business as usual for Charlie and the gang.

One of the attractions of Pawson's series is that it's like a comfy pair of old slippers. So Charlie's painting, his lovelife (or lack of it) and the familiar faces of Dave and the CID crew around him are all part of the fun. And his portrayal of small-town Yorkshire is so real that you'll be convinced you've passed through Heckley.

I've felt in the past that Pawson's bouncy, almost facetious, style has sometimes jarred when Charlie and the crew come up against some grim storylines, as the gear change has been too abrupt. This time, though, a more marked sense of melancholy pervades the book generally. And, as usual, there's welcome reality with more than a passing acknowledgement of issues in newspaper headlines.

Allison and Busby are reissuing THE PICASSO SCAM, THE MUSHROOM MAN and LIMESTONE COWBOY in nice new shiny paperback. So while you're barging old ladies and small children out of the way in your haste to buy OVER THE EDGE, make sure you fill the earlier gaps in your collection. If you haven't encountered Pawson, he's a writer you'll want to meet.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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