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==Synopsis of the book:==
Robin Firth has finally found love again after many years of being on his own. Although in his early forties he has met dancer Agnes who is quite a bit younger than him at 25 years old. They have been together on three months, when Robin admits to Agnes that he has a son Mouse with his ex-wife Ruth and he would like to introduce his to her so they can form a relationship.
However within hours of first hearing about him, Robin received a call from a hospital in Gloucester advising him his son has been admitted after a car accident. Although he is ok with a broken leg and short-term memory loss, his mother, his passenger was killed in the crash. The Police want to charge Mouse for his mother's death as despite his claims of not drinking, it is found in his blood stream and all over his clothes.
Robin finds his son's actions unacceptable and storms back to London, leaving Agnes to look after him, when he is discharged from Hospital on crutches. Things look worse for Mouse when the Church burns down and the Police believe because he caused a fire when he was six, that he is responsible again. However the Churches priceless and well-hidden Crusaders Banner remains intact, bringing New Age travellers to see this miracle. Agnes must try and find out what really happened to Moose that night as he remains convinced he is not responsible for his mother's death.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
I thought this was an enjoyable crime thriller. There was always enough going on within it to keep the read both interested and satisfied. It had a very good feel to it and I always wanted to know the truth behind the story. In some ways it was quite an unusual story and certainly not one I expected after reading the first couple of chapters.
Jo Bannister for me is a very good crime writer. I have probably read half a dozen of them and during that time she has never disappointed me with her work. Although I really like her Brodie Farrell series of books, I was keen to try some of her other work and if this is typical of that it is well worth reading. This is one of her latest novels having been written in 2008.
Although I must admit I was slightly disappointed on the challenge point of view. As I worked out the answer and the guilty party just over halfway through the story. But I still needed it confirmed and the reasons behind it explained.
That said I must have enjoyed it as I read it from cover to cover over the weekend. I found it a very easy read with an interesting concept behind it. As almost immediately I felt involved and was keen to learn more about Mouse's relationship with his father, as it seemed very strained. The story was always well written and interesting, but for me it was not as stimulating or as deep as her previous stories. As for me is lacked the deepness in people's feeling and thoughts that I have experienced with his author.
Usually I read the books summary and the first chapter of any book before I decide to read it or not but on this occasion I was satisfied just by the authors name on the novel.
Although had I turned the book over to its back cover I would have been very annoyed. I really hate it when someone regardless of who they are is praising the author's work. It is absolutely fine when it is about the book in question, but when as in this case it is about their previous work it really frustrates me. What is the good of knowing about her previous book if you are planning to read this one? It just isn't relevant and can be confusing and deceives people.
Ok that's my moan over with. Before reading any novel I always like to get a feel for the story and the best way to do this is by reading the summary. For this one the summary was situated within the inside cover and I thought it was excellent. It certainly caught my imagination and I really liked the concept of Agnes trying to help Mouse out a man she had never met before. It was like her helping out a stranger and one I thought was steeped in possibilities.
I began reading the first chapter in earnest and no sooner had I started I was intrigued by the story. The ideas seemed new and fresh and I liked the mystery that surrounded what happened to the family as a result of the fire and how the various members were affected by it. The author set the scene very well, with excellent descriptions that helped me picture myself with Mouse in the fire. As a result of this fire I developed sympathy for the characters as I could see how it had damaged them, especially the little boy Mouse who could not speak for three years following it.
While I was getting more engrossed in the novel, I was also surprised and disappointed with Robin's reaction to the car accident Mouse was involved in. Although I sympathise with him I thought his reaction was out of character and frankly unlikely. Any father would I'm sure be supportive and loving even if their son was thought to have killed his mother while drunk at the wheel. As a result I was frustrated with the author and my respect for the character diminished, luckily for me from this point on her only played a minor roll in proceedings. And the idea of leaving it to his girlfriend seemed equally unlikely.
At this stage I had no idea what direction the story was going to take and as a result for me there was danger and uncertainty around every corner. With the idea of the Church fire adding an interesting aspect especially with the unpredictable New Age Travellers arriving. It certainly added to the plot and the key seemed to be the mysterious Banner that had sat in the church for 40 years.
The only problem for me was from the middle of the story onwards I knew the answer to this mystery, I probably read too many thrillers!! I continued reading because I wanted to see the reasoning behind what had happened and I was still enjoying Mouse and Agnes adventures, in this well thought out story.
I particularly enjoyed the fast paced and exciting conclusion. That said I found the pace in general of the novel it be well paced, there was always something happening, sometimes good but usually bad. Often in good well-written crime thrillers I find the ending an anticlimax but this was not this case in this one. As I was very unsure what would happen to Mouse and Agnes as this author always has a surprise or two up her sleeve.
At the outset of the novel I would never of guessed it would be Agnes that would be the lead character. Not because she was not a very good character but because the way the first chapter read. As the first chapter was more written from Robin's perspective and I thought the rest of the novel would follow suit. In retrospect it was exactly the right thing to do in my opinion.
Agnes was a very unusual lead character. This 25-year-old dancer, who must have been resting, as there was no evidence of her working. She was well described, inquisitive always looking for answers to solve the puzzle, while being as brave as a lion when the odds were against her. I found her easy to like, although I did question what she saw in Robin, who when the pressure was on turned on her and his son.
Mouse or Mathew to use his real Christian name, played a superb victim. When things go wrong blame the person in the village who you don't understand and who is a little different. I found him although not always helping himself to be a likeable character and one who I felt sympathy and compassion for. As he hadn't had an easy upbringing with his mother and father but for me he had turned out with many great qualities despite it or maybe as a result of it.
Peter the Vicar was another character who surprisingly for me played a key role in the story. I liked the way the author created a modern and trendy member of the cloth, who was as keen to find the truth as Mouse and Agnes. I liked his honest and dynamic personality, it made such as change to have the Church portrayed in a positive and up to date way. I liked the way he was always in the thick of the action.
The last of the important characters in the story was Robin. I must admit I thought the story would be told through his eyes. Although I'm glad his role diminished as I thought he was selfish character and not one I found I could relate to. Ultimately it would be important his relationship with Mouse which somehow lost it's way.
I thought all the characters were excellent, even those that only played a small part in the story. As they all had their own distinct personalities and acted in a logical and believable fashion. With the authors descriptions of both them and their thought to be in keeping with these personalities.
The story was full of mystery and suspense. With for me the main mystery being what had happened to Mouse that fateful night and what was the real story behind the Banner. I thought the author built up the mystery well and you had no idea what would happen or if it was going to be good or bad.
I do feel quite an experienced reader of Jo Bannister stories and for me despite being good, I do not feel this is her best piece of work. For me you needed one or two more suspects to spice things up and an extra twist and turn or two. As I felt I knew the answers and was proved right halfway though the story.
As a result of this I felt a little unchallenged by this book. Yes it was still good but I was not wondering and pontificating as to the answers to this one. It was all a little too easy and in comparison with some of her other stories I felt the story was a little light too. Maybe this story is better for those wanting a light 'holiday' read.
I thought the story although quite short was long enough to tell this story effectively. Despite not having an officially named prologue or epilogue, it did have elements if this at the beginning and end of the story. A proper epilogue for me would have been great as I would loved to know what happens to the main characters a few months down the line.
Overall I thought this was a very enjoyable crime thriller. For me not her best novel but still a well written and well thought out story. For me the characters were the best part of this novel, they were well described and had super personalities.
Price: £4.99 used or £10.99 new at Amazon
Publisher: Severn House
About the author: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/b/jo-bannister
@CPTDANIELS April 2010