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by Jess Walter
Hodder and Stoughton, November 2005
294 pages
ISBN: 0340819952

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The Vince of the title isn't exactly what you'd call a fine upstanding citizen. In fact, he's been relocated to Spokane as part of the witness protection scheme. And as the book opens he is worried that his cover has been blown.

Vince has a pleasant existence in Spokane, working in a donut shop with a nice little sideline in stolen credit cards. He has his own house, and a potential love interest in the shape of tart with a heart Beth who yearns to get into real estate.

But all this looks threatened when it appears a blast from his past has turned up in town and wants to finish Vince off. And, worse, he might not even get to vote for the first time (the book is set in 1980 amidst Carter and Reagan's election campaign).

About the only reason I finished this book in one sitting was that I was a captive audience on a four-hour train journey. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book, but I couldn't see why it had been nominated for an Edgar Award.

I dunno, maybe I've seen too many episodes of The Sopranos, or got fed-up of books where none of the characters are particularly appealing. I'm not sure if Walter wants us to like Vince or not -- I wasn't fussed about him, and thought in fact he was amazingly naive for someone of his background.

The book's big plus is some good cameo roles. I liked Grebbe the prospective candidate who strikes up a relationship with a difference with Vince, jovial gangster Ange and Tic the space cadet in the donut shop.

Speaking of which, if you've read Walter's previous books set in Spokane, OVER TUMBLED GRAVES and LAND OF THE BLIND, you'll know he has a faintly distracted writing style and an ability to create space cadets (I never took to Detective Caroline Mabrey, who always seemed away with the fairies).

But I did like Detective Alan Dupree, and he appears in CITIZEN VINCE at the start of his career. There are some highly entertaining scenes as he hurtles round New York on the trail of Vince with a maverick cop to end 'em all at his side.

People whose judgement I trust have liked this book a lot. In the end, I could see why it appealed, but I could take it or leave it. Read it and make your own mind up.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, February 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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