On page one of this novel by Jo Bannister we meet Jerome Cardy, a 20-year-old black man, a law student and the son of a respectable hard-working family, who is involved in a minor car accident. But this normally insignificant event sets off paranoia in Jerome, who flees the scene when the other person involved, whose fault it was, insists on calling the police. Jerome’s terror become only more portentous when, before the night is over, Jerome is found beaten to death in the prison cell where he had been incarcerated shortly afterwards, murdered by a psychotic racist who was apparently a stranger to him.
But before that tragic event takes place, the reader meets Gabriel Ash, in his mid-twenties, a well-educated Government analyst before the traumatic events of fours years ago when his wife and two young boys had been taken by persons unknown, their present whereabouts a complete mystery.
After Gabriel’s arrest, he had been placed in a cell adjacent to Jerome’s. Before later being moved to a different cell (where he was shortly thereafter killed) Jerome had said some things to Gabriel that take on great significance after the murder, telling him that he knew he was going to die, and speaking of a dog he says he used to have, named Othello. These things take on greater significance after he is killed, which Gabriel tries to tell the authorities, who pay no attention to his words. (Gabriel is variously known in the area as “the Norbold village idiot,” and “Rambles with Dogs” [a take-off on Dances with Wolves] as he is always walking his beloved white lurcher, Patience, the dog he’d adopted three months ago and his most frequent conversationalist. Hazel Best, a 26year-old rookie cop, is the only one who feels there may be something to what Gabriel is telling them.
All the characters are very well-drawn. The plot is well-woven, and the suspense soon escalates. There are hints of police corruption, and the presence of Norbold’s “last surviving godfather” hovers in the background until he makes an appearance late in the book. Gabriel is a wonderful creation, as is Hazel, and I absolutely loved the writing. The first book in a series, it was followed in December of 2014 by “Perfect Sins,” which in turn will be followed by “Desperate Measures” in December of 2015. A lot of great reading in store!