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by Neil White
Avon, May 2010
496 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847561284

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Twenty years ago, barrister Claude Gilbert was widely believed to have killed his own wife in a particularly horrific manner by burying her, and her unborn child, alive before going on the run and disappearing without trace. Now, crime reporter, Jack Garrett is contacted by someone who claims that Gilbert is alive and is willing to come forward to be interviewed. This will almost certainly be the scoop Garrett needs to revive his career as a freelance, but the only snag is that, as a precondition of appearing again in public, Gilbert wants Garrett to prove his innocence. To complicate matters further, Garrett's girlfriend, Laura McGanity is a police officer, and his involvement in the Gilbert case seems to be causing waves that might well threaten her career, as well as her life.

One of the reasons I picked this book up was that it is set in Lancashire and, as I'm a Lancashire lassie myself by birth, I was hoping for some places I might recognize. In that regard, the book was a bit of a disappointment as it centered around Blackey, a suburb of Manchester, but frankly, I didn't get any particularly strong sense of place out of the book, and it could just as easily have been set in a fictional village anywhere in the country, although the action at the end did move to the more familiar territory of the Ribble Valley.

I thought the book got off to a slow start and I was on the verge of losing interest, but I persevered, and White did eventually succeed in hooking me, partly through the two sub-plots, rather than the main story of Claude Gilbert himself. One of the strands in the book follows double-glazing salesman, Mike Dobson, trapped in a loveless marriage and haunted by something in his past that ties him to the murder of Gilbert's wife and forced to turn to local prostitutes for company. The other features a local peeping tom who breaks into homes and takes pictures of the occupants without them even being aware he was there. The way these two storylines weave in and around the central plot actually managed to provide some of the book's better drawn moments and made up for the fact that Garrett himself doesn't provide that much in the way of interest.

The book does finally gather some much-needed pace and the climax of the story is genuinely gripping, edge-of-the-seat stuff, which more than makes up for the books earlier deficiencies. But I'm still left wondering why so many main characters in crime fiction are called Jack!

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, September 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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