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by Peter Tickler
Robert Hale, August 2010
224 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 070909096X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Maria Tull is stabbed to death in a car park in Oxford after giving a lecture in Venetian art. A photo is found on her phone of Jack Smith, Grandpont's local plumber. DI Susan Holden and her team start their investigations, looking particularly at Maria's family; her GP husband, druggy son, and bitter step-daughter. Then Jack Smith is brutally murdered and a photo of an oil painting is discovered on his phone. Amongst all of this, DI Holden begins a love affair with Karen Pointer, the area pathologist, whilst picking her way through her personal issues with her mother and trying to unravel the complex murder case she finds herself in charge of.

Where great novels feel smooth and polished, this published novel reads like a draft. Dialogue is at times childish and often stilted. Characterisation is left until late on and reserved for only one or two members of the narrative's cast which leaves the other characters as weak stereotypes. In particular, the lesbian characters feel one-dimensional. Add to this the jolting habit the author has of breaking one of the fundamental rules of writing; swapping the narrative point of view mid-scene.

The book might be described as "a good read", but the strength of the killer's feelings are questionable and the reader doesn't get to know the character well enough to understand the motives behind the killings. Even during the big reveal not all the threads are tied up, not all the clues are explained, leaving the reader with lots of questions, including one big one regarding the paintings given so much significance throughout the novel yet the ignored during the final confession.

At times this book reads like an unplanned work-in-progress. The brainstorm sessions between DI Holden and her team of interchangeable, bickering constables read like an insight into the author's mind as he tries to answer his own plot dilemmas, unsuccessfully as it turns out because the story is like Swiss cheese with holes big enough for mice to climb into. A shame, because this could have been a good read, but it's too rough, too unpolished.

Madeleine Marsh is an aspiring author who lives in the South West. She helps run sci-fi conventions and loves modern cinema.

Reviewed by Madeleine Marsh, March 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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