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by Alison Bruce
Constable & Robinson, July 2011
320 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 1849016070

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The book opens with Kimberly catching a newsflash about the recovery of a body in Spain. Nick Lewton, the dead man, is clearly connected to Kimberly, but Bruce keeps us guessing as to how and why. Almost immediately, Rachel's house is found burning with Rachel and Riley believed to be inside. DC Gary Goodhew, Bruce's young maverick detective, chances on the scene as the fire is raging and quickly becomes intrigued by the arson and by Kimberly. Later, a woman's body is found in the ruined house, but there is no sign of Riley. Where is the missing child and where is Rachel's boyfriend, Stefan, who has a history of jealous rages? It's feared that Stefan has kidnapped Riley. A manhunt begins, led by Goodhew and his team. As the investigation progresses, it becomes clear that Kimberly is not telling the whole truth. Her lies create fresh problems, landing our hero in trouble with his team who suspect he's part of her subterfuge.

DC Goodhew features in Bruce's earlier crime novels, but this is a good introduction to his character, as he treads the line between civic obedience and the need to get at the truth, whatever the cost. His rocky relationships with his boss, DI Marks, and his new colleague, Constable Sue Gully, create layers of tension that sit well with the complex plot which Bruce has created.

Multiple points of view are handled with real skill by the author, especially the teenage hoodie's account of finding the house ablaze. Bruce has a talent for drawing characters to life in just a few sentences, essential for a large cast. Her journalist, Bev Dransfield, is someone who deserves a bigger role in a future book.

Most impressively, Bruce ensures that every character has a moral core, whether decent or rotten. There is no one here who exists solely to drive the plot in convenient directions. One of the most beautifully drawn characters, Jay Andrews, is unable to take an active role in the story. But Bruce ensures that he's involved and essential to the resolution. She deals her cards with real compassion for human flaws and frustrations.

Bruce's detailed, almost documentary prose style demonstrates her commitment to credible storytelling. The reader never doubts that she understands consequences as well as causes, and is committed to a deep exploration of the issues she raises at the same time as delivering surprises and twists. The end result is a satisfying, complex story that demands the reader's full attention. As the best crime novels should.

Sarah Hilary is an award-winning short story author, currently working on a debut crime novel.

Reviewed by Sarah Hilary, September 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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