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by Reginald Hill
Harper, June 2008
262 pages
ISBN: 0061451983

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Laid off from his construction job, Joe Sixsmith has become a private investigator in the small city of Luton, England. His newest client, Chris Porphry, has been accused of what, in Chris' s view is the most heinous crime imaginable: not murder, not fraud, but CHEATING AT GOLF. At the Royal Hoo club, founded by one of Chris' ancestors, there is no room for atonement and no appeal of the club's judgment. The club member is immediately expelled and stripped of his membership.

The case against Chris seems airtight. The ball in the scandal bore Chris's distinctive monogram and his family coat of arms. Joe thinks seriously of returning the 200 pounds Chris gave him as a retainer, but Chris is so desperate and obviously befuddled by the charge that Joe perseveres. As Joe waits for Chris at the Royal Hoo, he is befriended by three golfers (a little odd, since blacks are admitted to the club only as help) who keep quizzing him about his golf prowess. Joe's entire acquaintance with golf is at the Luton Pitch and Putt, but he is reluctant to blow his cover by admitting his ignorance of the sport. He manages to finesse a number of questions, but when the question of a handicap comes up, he decides it should be low, so he won't appear to be a serious golfer. So he says his handicap is "0," only later learning that he has put himself in a class with Tiger Woods.

Joe's persistence pays off. He uncovers a scheme to frame Chris and strip him of his membership, thereby enabling the others to buy his shares and do with the club whatever they want - which is to sell the extremely valuable land for a huge profit.

Joe provides a bit of fun as he stumbles from clue to clue with the help of two women who are both intelligent and sassy -- Cheryl Butcher, a Legal Aid lawyer who has considerable information about the background of the Porphry family, and Joe's love, Belinda, a nurse of great common sense who keeps Joe grounded.

The reader is kept in great suspense about how in the world Joe can clear his client. Only two things are bothersome. Why do the three lawyers befriend a black man, someone who would ordinarily be shunned at the Royal Hoo, and why doesn't Joe simply fake an injury as the way to avoid having to promise to play a round of golf?

Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Devine, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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