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by Jessie Keane
Harper, January 2011
456 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007349394

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Gracie Doyle hates Christmas. Her beloved father died last Christmas Eve and now, as she is working in the successful Manchester casino she inherited from him, the police call to tell her that her younger brother is in a coma after being attacked. If that wasn't bad enough, in quick succession she receives divorce papers from her estranged husband, her casino burns down and she gets a packet through the post of her other brother's hair with a threatening note. Something has gone badly wrong with the her family and it looks like it is up to her to sort it out.

Gracie and the rest of her family were estranged about twenty years before when, following her parents' divorce, Gracie stayed with her father while George and Harry stayed with their mother. She hasn't seen them since, but now it is time for her to move back to London to discover what kind of trouble her brothers have got themselves into. It turns out it to be bad news. They have set themselves up as a male escort agency and in the course of doing business have tangled with Deano Drax, a particularly vicious paedophile gangster.

It takes all of Gracie's wit and courage (and the help of her nearly ex-husband Lorcan) to unweave the tangled web of her brothers' lives, save Harry from Drax's hands and George from an obsessed ex-customer.

This is a competently plotted thriller, well-paced and exciting. It switches from Gracie's point of view in the present, to her brothers' viewpoint in the past, so we see what might have caused their situation before she does. However, once Gracie discovers what kind of business they've been running the plot settles down in the present, so the tension builds nicely.

I liked the book, but I wasn't that keen on Gracie. She's red-haired, beautifully statuesque, rich, successful, but she's also someone who dithers over whether to visit her badly injured brother in hospital. In contrast her brothers are thoroughly likeable and engaging. George does something heroic that enrages Drax and Harry is kind and sympathetic to the women who hire him. They can both think beyond themselves, but Gracie needs the catalyst of her casino being torched and a threatening letter to herself before she does anything.

If there's a sequel about the Doyle family, I'd much prefer it to be about George and Harry than Gracie, please.

Anthea Hawdon lives in the North East of England and has spent her working life in and around the NHS; she consequently takes refuge in fiction as much as possible.

Reviewed by Anthea Hawdon, May 2011

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