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by Adrian Magson
Creme de la Crime, September 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0954763475

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Adrian Magson's first full length novel, NO PEACE FOR THE WICKED, introduced not so hard-bitten freelance journalist Riley Gavin who, with military policeman-turned investigator, Frank Palmer, comprises a successful detecting duo.

NO HELP FOR THE DYING begins with a prologue, a chilling one, in contrast with the murder weapon employed by a strange, almost emaciated figure which emerges, paradoxically clutching a bible, from an unremarkable white van.

The man locates a homeless boy slumbering in an unsanitary sleeping bag -- but not for much longer. The bible bearer unzips the sleeping bag and forces scalding tomato soup down the throat of the scarcely resisting youth, effectively choking him to death.

Riley Gavin is telephoned by her agent, Donald Brask, at the unreasonable time of 5am. Donald has, in turn, been contacted by Henry Pearcy, a former colleague of Riley's, who insists on talking with her about one of the journalist's earliest cases, that of a teenager, Katie Pyle, who vanished a decade previously, never to be seen again.

Riley had been troubled by the disappearance and the fact she had been unable to help the grieving parents who displayed a touching faith in the young journalist's abilities.

A fresh light is cast on the old case -- Katie's body has been found on the Thames Embankment . Where she has been hiding for ten years and what could be the motive for the murder? Frank Palmer arrives at Riley's home soon after Donald's call and the pair set about attempting to locate Henry Pearcy, answering questions raised by Katie's death and discovering why a large number of the homeless youth of London has been dying.

The search for Pearcy leads them to the unholy domain of the Church Of Flowing Light, a soi-disant charitable organisation that feeds indigent youth and attempts to restore the less disadvantaged to the bosom of their wealthy families.

But how does the organisation manage this? Why does the strange, well-nourished pastor have an accent that meanders between English and American and why does he have acolytes who resemble thugs rather than missionaries? It appears to be a soup kitchen dispensing questionable nourishment with murky depths!

Sadly, one does not have far to look in London to find young people sleeping rough. A vast leap of imagination would not be necessary for the author to come up with the possibilities he has explored in this tale. Mr Magson has a gift for conjuring atmosphere full of menace and sometimes understated as well as overt violence.

The portrait of Riley Gavin, a journalist as yet not callous to the extent of lacking empathy with victims, is well-painted. Perhaps other characters are not sketched with the same detail, but are shaded sufficiently to propel the action and maintain interest.

I really enjoyed the author's occasional surprise insertion of words that are probably not yet found in the common lexicon -- for example, the delicious phrase 'stonking generosity'. The prose is clear and succinct, deftly drawing word pictures of the sad circumstances besetting both homeless youth and abandoned, bereft parents, as well as those who prey on them whilst pretending to pray over them.

While I would be unwilling to sample any soup dished up by some of this author's characters, I am very anxious to sample forthcoming literary dishes in any menu devised by Adrian Magson.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, September 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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