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by Penny Deacon
Creme de la Crime, September 2004
288 pages
ISBN: 0954763416

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I don't read much science fiction, and tend to view crossover books with suspicion -- too many have ended up as a dog's dinner and done neither genre any favours. Penny Deacon's A KIND OF PURITAN, though, is a neat idea that sits happily within the crime genre, whilst providing the reader with a horribly chilling, horribly plausible snapshot of the near future.

This is one very spooky look into the mid 21st century -- I calculated it's set in 2030ish when technology is king, huge swathes of the UK are run-down no-go areas, and the controlling Families live in unbelievable luxury. Humans have had ID implants -- put in at birth -- which allow them to be Netlinked and for the state to follow their every move.

Humility, whose family were 20th century Travellers before their community was taken over by Puritans, lives on the edges of society. She has the basic implant, but her group forbade upgrades, so she cannot access the wider delights, if you want to call it that, of the Net.

A KIND OF PURITAN is a slow starter, and once I set it down I didn't feel inclined to snatch it back up and devour it in one sitting. But the second half of the book grabbed me more, as Humility starts to piece together what's happening.

She's living on a scruffy barge at Midway Port, and is barely tolerated, mainly because she's friendly with port officer Daisy. Then, when she witnesses a body being dredged up, she starts asking questions. A series of 'accidents' and more suspicious deaths put Humility in danger.

The mystery itself isn't a complicated one, but Deacon, whose background is romance writing, is a relaxed storyteller and a polished enough plotter for the story to hang together convincingly. Humility is a likeable heroine, and I'd welcome seeing more of her in future books.

This is a promising crime debut for both the writer and for new UK publishing house Creme de la Crime.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2004

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