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by Dreda Say Mitchell
Hodder & Stoughton Paperbacks, August 2011
416 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340993227

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Two small girls are mown down by a car outside their school while their estranged parents are in the middle of a blazing row. Gang leader, Stanley Lewis, vows to find out who murdered his twin daughters and exact his revenge.

In a sickening coincidence, another twin is badly injured in the same incident. Jackie Jarvis does her best to ignore her fears for her own health while her son Preston fights for her life but the tension on both fronts is driving a wedge between her and her husband, nicknamed Schoolboy, a reformed criminal and now successful restaurant owner.

Jackie is as determined as Stan Lewis to discover who was responsible for killing the children and putting her son's life at risk and she has plenty of underworld contacts to call on, as well as the help of her friends, Anna, Roxy, Ollie and Misty. The finger of suspicion points immediately at Paul Bliss, a man with a finger in an awful lot of very unsavoury pies, but Bliss claims he's been set up. Stan Lewis' father, Kenny, is also determined to have a hand in matters, even from a prison cell, and Jackie is drawn unwillingly into acting as his eyes and ears.

This was a book I almost didn't pick up, but never judge a book by its cover is a good maxim, and I'm glad I applied it here. Instead of a stereotypical tale of gangland violence, I was drawn into a complex web of ever-shifting family relationships. The East End setting was convincingly rendered and, whilst not always likeable, the characters were always interesting. Jackie Jarvis is a tough woman, a good mother and a loyal friend, and the title simply doesn't do either her or her associates any justice. It seems to have been chosen more for the way it fits with previous titles in the series, regardless of how well it suits this particular story.

The book had a rich cast of characters ranging from Kenny Lewis, an old-style crime boss none too pleased with his son Stan's activities in his enforced absence from the scene, to the enigmatic ‘Flick' Lewis, the son no one talks about any more. There are many strands of history woven into the story and these gradually unfold as events progress. Not everything is as it seems, and there were plenty of surprises along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but I do hope either the author or her editors will get a better grip in future on the irritatingly erratic punctuation that littered the pages. I won't say this came close to spoiling the story, but it was certainly intrusive. However, that unfortunate niggle aside, Say Mitchell is definitely an author I'll be seeking out again.

§ 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, April 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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