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by Elisabeth Hyde
Pan, June 2006
304 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0330443003

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Megan is unhappy. Exhibiting all the signs and symptoms of a spoiled kid at 19, she is sampling the joy of an Ecstasy tablet when her father rings her at college. She had, earlier in the day, attempted to get her mother to fund a trip to Mexico for her spring break but when that failed, had left her abortionist mother with the parting words: "Have fun killing babies." Now her father is ringing her with bad news.

Her father Frank Thompson had also quarrelled with Diana Duprey. He had rushed from the house but when he eventually returns, he discovers his wife's body in the pool where she customarily swims laps. When the police arrive, they locate a large bruise on Diana's head. It is obvious that Diana was murdered and there is no lack of suspects.

From the outset, Frank is the primary suspect. His quarrel with Diana was very noisy and a neighbour is 'helpful' to the police. Megan is a possible suspect because of her fight with her mother, but she was at college across town. Then there are the ideologically opposed crowd who loathe the abortionist's profession and seek to persuade girls that they should not obtain abortions.

Two detectives, Huck, at 26 the younger of the two, and middle-aged Ernie, are assigned to the case. They are somewhat embarrassed at meeting Megan because they have seen sexually explicit photographs taken of her by former boyfriend Bill, photographs which have, inexplicably, turned up on the internet.

Bill is a pathetic figure. Megan attempted to cut the ties when Bill went to college but he remains obsessed. He constantly pesters Diana for help in getting Megan back, refusing to accept that Megan is unavailable.

As is to be expected, various sides of the abortion debate are introduced with a subplot involving a young girl who is pregnant. The abortion debate is, however, secondary to the mystery.

There is a romance subplot involving the detective, Huck, and Megan. I couldn't quite see the purpose of it, other, perhaps, than to add more interest to the novel.

Of the characters, Diana seems the most vivid and appealing. Frank, a prosecuting attorney, doesn't come across as having the spine for such a job and Megan, with her initial outburst, seems immature although she does develop along the way. Hyde has done a great job in her creation of Bill: what a creepy young man.

The mystery is well plotted I didn't spot the baddie, although the author was fair with her clues. All told, it is a fairly good read for a long holiday afternoon.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, December 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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