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by Clare Curzon
St Martin's Minotaur, September 2008
320 pages
ISBN: 031237531X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sandy Craddock witnesses his half-brother, Warren Laing, getting severely injured in a hit and run accident. Rather than try to get help for his estranged relative, Sandy flees the scene believing himself to be the true target. The victim is ultimately misidentified as Sandy Craddock by Sandy's employer, a mistake that works to Sandy's advantage and he does nothing to clarify the situation.

Sandy goes to Warren's apartment and tries to assume Warren's identity until he can decide the next action to take. While hiding out, he meets the beautiful and mysterious Fiona Morgan. Fiona has her own plans for Warren, who seems to have his own share of enemies, but tries to help Sandy in the meantime. Together the two travel to an artists' retreat where Sandy hopes to have a chance to hide out until he knows if Warren is going to die from his injuries and whether to risk his own life by revealing his identity to the proper authorities.

Unfortunately events at the retreat do not go smoothly. Sandy is not very interested in his drawing class, he is disappointed that he is unable to spend a lot of time with Fiona and he does not like his fellow 'artists.' Then one night when he opens his bedroom door, Rosa Burford, the woman who has been using the easel next to him, falls into his arms dying. Before he recovers from the shock, she dies. Sandy and Fiona do their best to hide all evidence of Rosa's visit and move her body from the hotel. After Rosa's husband reports her missing, Sandy must do his best to help the police solve this murder without revealing his true identity or his involvement in her death. He must also figure out who tried to kill him in the hit and run accident and what he needs to do to prevent future attempts.

Even though this book is subtitled as A SUPERINTENDENT MIKE YEADINGS MYSTERY, Yeadings in fact plays a small role in this mystery. The first third of the book focuses on Sandy Craddock's point of view while the remaining two thirds of the book follows the police investigation of the murder of Rosa Burford. This investigation was primarily done by Yeadings' team, which includes one of my favorite supporting characters, Rosemary Zyczynski. While this Thames Valley police department is more than capable of resolving this crime, fans who enjoyed Mike Yeadings' personality quirks from the previous books will be disappointed with his relatively minor role in PAYBACK.

Aside from Mike Yeadings' minimal role in this book, PAYBACK is quite typical of the series. The Thames Valley police step in to investigate a crime in the general vicinity of their station. There they use their experiences, their strengths and their personalities to win over witnesses and gather the truth about these offenses.

The precision with which this group of cops works reenforces the notion that the police are the 'good guys' who truly want to find justice for the victims of crimes. While the police are typically viewed as the 'good guys' too many real life scandals or novels with 'troubled' officers have changed the police's role in the mystery genre. This reassurance that the police are on the side of good, even if it only appears in a novel, is one of the reasons I look forward to new releases in this series.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, March 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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