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When Philip Harvey, a wealthy businessman, and his lover, Martine, who is married to someone else, are found dead in the dining room of Harvey's home, there are any number of suspects for the murder. There is Martine's husband, devastated to find that his young bride is having an affair. Then there is a relative of Harvey's dead wife, who harbours a grudge against him; Harvey's step-daughter, who may believe that he was responsible for her mother's death; Harvey's housekeeper of many years who had hoped that Harvey would marry her and her daughter who hoped to have a good life reaping the rewards of her mother's marriage. The only problem for the police is proving which one committed the crime. Can they do so before another murder is committed?
Emma Page is not an author I had previously heard of; I picked the book up in my local library because I liked the sound of the title and the blurb on the back of the book looked interesting. I did enjoy the book too - it isn't a masterpiece, but I think the author deserves to be better known than she is - at the present time it seems that the book is out of print, because it is only available on Amazon second-hand.
Rather than pick one character and have them as the focus of the story, the author decided to explain the situation through the eyes of several different people. Some of these are suspects, others belong to the police force. I found this quite a good way of telling the story; most works of crime fiction prefer to stick to one main point of view, but this gives the reader the chance to make up own own mind and solve the crime, if that is what you want to do. Clues are slowly fed to us throughout the course of the book, although it is very much at the end that most of the evidence pointing towards the killer come to life.
This type of story-telling means that there is very little chance to get to know any of the characters particularly well. We are told exactly what we need to know and no more, for very good reason - most of the characters are potential suspects and the author wants to keep their backgrounds as mysterious as possible. Although in some ways, this helps feed the reader's desire to know how the book is going to turn out, in another way, it is detrimental. I find the best crime fiction is the type that builds on a character so that we begin to care what happens to them. In this case, there was no-one and I suspect that because of that, this book will not linger for long in my memory.
The style of writing is good - clear and succinct - and the chapters are a good length - not too short that they don't give away enough information and not too long that the reader begins to lose the will to live. Much of the story is told by blocks of prose, rather than illustrating it by speech, which does make the writing seem a little flat at times, but nothing that really put me off.
Probably the main downfall of this book is that the author has been too meticulous in the details of the events surrounding the crime. It is almost as if she is writing a detailed police report, where everyone's movements have to be accounted for. She does this very well, but it doesn't make for particularly good fiction - I felt that she was trying too hard and the explanations seemed unnecessary. I did wonder if the author was an ex-police officer because of the attention to detail, but there is no mention of this in her biography.
On the whole, I enjoyed this book. It isn't a masterpiece and it isn't one that will stick in my mind for years to come, but as a way of passing a few hours, it is as enertaining as many a work of crime fiction on the bestseller lists. Unfortunately, it is not readily available in the shops or online. Amazon do sell the hardback version in their used and new section starting from £2.95.
Publisher: Constable Crime
Philip Harvey has an ordered life when he inherits the family business after the murder of his wife. However, this is turned on its head when he meets and falls in love with a young married mother. When he fails to turn up for a crucial business meeting DCI Kelsey begins his investigation.