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ALL HE SAW WAS THE GIRL
by Peter Leonard
Faber & Faber, January 2011
296 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0571255744


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Peter Leonard, son of the great Elmore, had big shoes to fill when he decided to become a writer. Nonetheless, he has proved himself and now readers the world over await the release of each new novel.

The setting is Rome. Two students, Chip and McCabe, are seemingly hell bent on trouble. At least Chip, the son of a wealthy politician, is. Chip has already made off with a taxi. The escapade has landed them in gaol where McCabe falls foul of a gang of criminals.

On their release, the boys see a story, complete with photographs, about their escapade. The trouble with the piece is the photograph, in which their names are reversed and McCabe appears to be the wealthy student and Chip the scholarship boy.

McCabe becomes the target for the gang. He is set up by the beautiful Angela, who gets to know him when he "rescues" her from some thugs. As he escorts her home, he is kidnapped, thereby exhibiting the power of the press which mid-identified his photograph. A ransom is demanded.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, Ray is an agent in the Secret Service. His wife, Sharon, is bored by his frequent and extended absences, so adds spice to her life by embarking on affairs. Her current heartthrob is Joey Palermo, a low level member of the Mafia, but related to a very important crook.

Ray is tired of the Service. He would prefer to be spending time with his wife. His attempt at extramarital games falls flat and he thinks the only path left open to him is to resign.

About the only thing this tale has going for it is action. The love stories are certainly unconvincing and the entire thing left me with the impression of sloppiness. An example of the author's lack of attention to detail is found in the character of McCabe. His given name appears only twice, and both times so indirectly that the reader might miss it. It appears in the newspaper caption misidentifying McCabe as Chip and then once more, toward the end of the novel, asaprt of an all points bulletin. (If anyone is interested -- and by that time I wasn't -- his name is William.)

I had the feeling that the author didn't much care, one way or another, for his audience. He knows he is capable of writing well and thought that his readers would just accept this as a well written tale instead of one containing holes.

I just hope Leonard pulls up his socks before writing his next opus, since this one I thought displayed a certain contempt for his audience.

Denise Pickles has been reviewing for RTE for many years. She lives in Australia.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, January 2011

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