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Births, Deaths and Marriages - Jill McGown

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Author: Jill McGown / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      20.09.2006 10:18
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      Not her best, but still compelling reading

      Although Jill McGown is a British author, it is easier to get hold of her books in the US. I’ve been a huge fan of her books for years now and have never been able to understand why she is not better known in this country. Her books, particularly the Lloyd and Hill series, of which this book is one, are everything that I look for in a murder mystery –enjoyable characters and good plots that often keep me up all night. This book, the twelfth in the series, is not her best, but it is still a damn good read and deserves more attention than it has previously had.

      The plot
      A woman is found in an isolated cottage with her skull crushed in. Her lover called an ambulance before collapsing from injuries caused by having been run over. It seems that the couple was in the process of moving in or out of the cottage, but which is not clear; nor is the dead woman who the police expected her to be. There is no clear motive for the murder, particularly as the most obvious suspect is lying unconscious in hospital.

      The case is given to Lloyd, whose partner, Judy Hill, has just given birth to their daughter. As Judy is walking with her new baby in the park one day, she is horrified to come across a young girl in charge of a baby that has been snatched – and the baby in question happens to have been born at the same time as Judy’s. Initially, there seems to be no link between the two cases, but as the facts become clearer, the possibility of a link has to be looked in to.

      The characters
      I love Lloyd and Hill as a partnership. Over the series, their relationship has developed from an affair while Judy was married to another man into a fully committed relationship. Lloyd makes a really nice change from the recent string of single detectives with a penchant for alcohol and depression, such as Rebus and Tom Thorne. He is a very believable character; he has a temper, but only loses it when really necessary and does what he has to do by hard work, rather than brilliance or luck.

      Judy is his ‘gun dog’; she picks up on certain facts in a case and manages to put them together to answer the questions that remain. She is a very dependent woman, who, having been married once, is reluctant to commit herself again and it is only due to Lloyd’s patience that the two of them finally commit and have a baby together. Again, she is a very realistic character and the relationship between the two has been a fun to see develop. This is a rare example of the main characters bringing as much to the book as the plot itself; some of the more popular authors of detective fiction tend to concentrate more on the plot than on the characters, which means that the books flop if the plot isn’t up to scratch.

      Conclusion
      Once again, this is a superb book from Jill McGown and I was kept awake until the early hours in order to find out who was the culprit. She manages to write in such a way that it is never quite clear who it is, yet there is always the feeling that the truth is not far off. Yet even after this, I didn’t find the ending disappointing; it was definitely worth staying up for.

      The plot develops at a good pace; enough information is given to keep the reader’s interest without spoiling the plot. McGown’s writing is straightforward and natural and completely suits the story – easy to read without being too simplistic.

      There is nothing I can really criticise about this book. It isn’t my favourite in the series, but it is still an excellent book that I can highly recommend. However, I would recommend that you begin with one of the earlier books, such as A Perfect Match, or Death of a Dancer, if you haven’t previously read any Jill McGown.

      It isn’t that easy to get hold of Jill McGown’s books; I don’t think I have ever seen one in a High Street book shop. However, this is available from play.com for £5.49. Published by Pan Macmillan, it has 320 pages. ISBN: 033048558X

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    • Product Details

      For Lloyd and Hill, a kidnapping soon becomes a murder investigation...In an isolated cottage a woman has been bludgeoned to death; outside, a man has been crushed by a car. That, and a row overheard earlier that morning, is all Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd has to go on. Who is the dead woman? Where's her handbag? If it was a burglary, why the extreme violence? If it was a domestic. why is the handbag missing? Questions without answers, And Lloyd doesn't yet know how deeply involved in the enquiry Judy Hill has become - nor how profoundly it will affect her.