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by James Brownley
Severn House, February 2009
249 pages
10.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847510795

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Journalist Alison Glasby is in trouble. She has been writing stories about the highly-effective work of a police corruption squad named Operation Longhammer, based on email communications from an unknown source. The stories have been accurate and Glasby's articles applauded. But then she published one alleging that Longhammer was going to investigate two crooked cops called Salmon and Shipp (or Fish and Chips as the paper's resident wit terms them); in fact nothing has happened in respect of these two policemen and they have launched a massive defamation action against Alison's paper, The Herald, and Alison herself. Her editor, the self-serving Mark Ellington, orders her to have a holiday, something which for Alison, a work-junkie who has recently split up with her boyfriend DS John Redgrave, is a terrible exile. But while on her enforced leave she is contacted by a mysterious and suspicious charcter called Michael Fisher who alleges that the head of Operation Longhammer, Chief Superintendent Henry Dunne, was involved along with two other boys in the murder of their games master, Mr Dickson while on a school hiking trip in the Scottish Highlands some thirty years ago (events which have been described for us in the prologue). Alison's pursuit of the truth or otherwise of Fisher's story leads her into ever deeper and more dangerous waters.

The best way to describe THE SINS OF THE CHILDREN is in terms of that old cliche, a ripping good yarn. The book is absolutely compulsive in terms of its narrative drive and I read it in one sitting. The fact that this is Brownley's second book (and Glasby's second appearance) makes that feat even more impressive. It is in many ways curiously and satisfyingly old-fashioned despite its ingenious use of various types of chapter-heading and the importance of email communication. This is a book in which good and bad get what they deserve and all ends happily (for the good) just as it should in a ripping yarn. Alison Glasby is an agreeably flawed if not totally convincing protagonist. The opening of the book, which is extremely well-done, is by far the darkest part. Indeed in that portion and also in the portrait of Henry Dunne's unstable marriage and troubled home-life we have glimpses of something more profound which indicate that Brownley would be capable of more than he displays here.

However it would be churlish to be negative especially as the book is free of pretension. What we have here is a gripping narrative which will wholly engage the reader. While social issues are touched on and the life of a national newspaper is entertainingly portrayed, THE SINS OF THE CHILDREN does not aim either at great psychological or sociological depth. The plot when one finally analyses it is a lightweight affair and the writing (as is necessary in a ripping yarn) devoted to clarity. All this means that the book lacks either the weight or that elusive x-factor which would give it an alpha-rating. But for a really gripping and involving story, well-told, which will completely involve the reader (and these are no small achievements) this book succeeds triumphantly.

Reviewed by Nick Hay, February 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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