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by Linwood Barclay
Orion, January 2013
384 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 1409141411

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Keisha Ceylon passes herself off as a psychic. She earns a living scouring newspapers and television broadcasts for news of missing persons and then approaching their families with an offer to help. But naturally, she doesn't do this out of a sense of altruism; she wants to be paid in advance for her services. With her lay-about boyfriend on the other end of the telephone when needed to give her a reference, Keisha is skilled at inveigling herself into people's lives and preying on their vulnerability.

The story starts with Keisha doing her best to convince Marcia and Dwayne Taggart that she can help them find their missing son, Justin. By the end of the first chapter it's clear that Keisha is running a clever scam, but soon after she parts Justin's parents from their money, she's straight onto another mark, a husband whose wife has disappeared. On this occasion, her attempts at cold reading are almost too successful, landing her in some very hot water, the very opposite of the missing woman's fate.

The blurb on the back cover from a review by the Daily Mail claims that this is a book to be read in one sitting. In one respect, they're entirely right. It certainly isn't hard to read NEVER SAW IT COMING in one go but in large measure that's because it is actually a pretty short book. The story is straightforward, almost surprising in its lack of secondary plots, which is perhaps what contributes to a feeling of lack of substance. The characters are almost universally unlikeable, from Keisha herself, a woman brought up by a mother running numerous social security frauds, who sees nothing wrong with lying to families desperately searching for answers, to her boyfriend, Kirk, who sponges off Keisha and mistreats her young son.

Keisha and Kirk are almost comical in their attempts to cover up the consequences of one of Keisha's scams going wrong in dramatic fashion, and they are unwittingly aided in their endeavours by a police officer who seems almost as stupid as they are venal. I spent most of the book wanting their pair of them to get their comeuppance.

It's unusual these days to read any crime novel or thriller that hasn't got at least one major sub-plot on the go, which can become rather taxing reading unless well-handled, so in that respect NEVER SAW IT COMING is an almost welcome departure from that formula, but on the other hand, it's hard not to feel short-changed by a book that can be so quickly finished. As for the plot, it is serviceable but holds no great surprises.

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, January 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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