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The Echo is the fifth novel from the award winning mystery/crime writer Minette Walters.
Billy Blake was a homeless alcoholic well known for wandering the streets, so everyone was surprised when he was found dead from starvation in one of the richest areas, in the garage of a wealthy architect he seemingly had no ties with. Journalist Michael Deacon is writing an article about homelessness and becomes obsessed with the case, digging and delving, but what will he uncover, and what lengths will people go to to keep it covered?
The Echo is a very haunting novel, and another twisting and intricate plot from the author. Minette Walters' characterisation and tension created between her characters is top notch, and the writing style, although flowing, is packed with detail and plot surprises that mean you have to concentrate.
Walters tackles homelessness very well, and creates a large element of sympathy for the subject at the same time as creating a feeling of disgustg towards the richer population, and the emotion comes through in her writing very well.
Very good twisting, turning novel.
I rate this book at 4 stars out of 5.
The book is available from amazon.co.uk for £5.59.
This review may also be posted on ciao.co.uk.
Thanks for reading.
A number one bestseller from Minette Walters. Not an author I would normally plunge into but the book was lingering on my shelf from an over-enthusiastic charity shop spree and seemed a tempting variation from my current diet of Dean Koontz and Graham Masterton. I expected ?atmosphere, imagination and narrative power of which few other writes are capable? (The Times) and I was promised that the book ?plays havoc with your emotions, keeps you awake, ends with joy and relief? (Mail on Sunday). However, I believe that Frances Fyfield of the Mail on Sunday was either reading the wrong book or was reviewing during that ?time of the month? when her hormones were rampaging and affecting her opinion on the novel (apologies for the incredibly sexist remark). Far from an ?echo?, I doubt that I will even be able to remember the plot of the novel within months. THE PLOT Amanda Powell finds the dead body of a man in her garage. He was a vagrant called Billy Blake who appeared to have starved to death, despite the fact he was found feet away from her freezer filled with food. She feels an urge to discover his true identity and have his life and its value acknowledged by the world. This is where Michael Deacon, correspondent from ?The Street? newspaper comes in. He is sent to write an article on homelessness and becomes fascinated by Blake and Powell. Who was this vagrant? He was a man with a literary background, a fascination for William Blake (whose name he had adopted) and a deep religious belief and moral code. Powell also seems to hide secrets in her past and Deacon sets out to solve these mysteries, enlisting the help of a young runaway, Terry, and a work colleague and closet homosexual, Barry. THE CHARACTERS Michael Deacon is our hero and the story centres around him and his investigations. He seems to be a loner with no life outside work. He is dedicated to his job and, like the dead vagrant
, has an ethical code by which he abides. He does not like to descend to gutter press tactics and prefers to write serious reflective articles as opposed to emotion-grabbing headlines. As a journalist he seems to be a superior form of the species but as a human being he seems slightly less laudable. Barry, his colleague, has not got many friends but Deacon invites him to the pub, persuading him with a lift home afterwards. However, within minutes of arriving at the hostelry Deacon abandons Barry to feel isolated and uneasy to drink with others and swiftly forgetting his promise. His disregard for the feelings of another human being seems cruel. However, we must not judge too harshly. Deacon later shows himself to be a sucker for a wounded puppy, offering a bed to a young homeless lad and even offering to put up Barry after he has a falling out with his mother. Ultimately we see that Deacon has a kind heart. He may not be perfect but then, how many of us can claim that accolade? He is human, he is fallible but his heart in the right place. As such he makes an admirable hero; we can empathise with him, be interested in his exploits and yet he is believable. The most interesting of the characters is the man whom we never really meet: Billy Blake. He was obviously an intelligent and well-educated man and yet lived rough, earning money through street-painting a scene of the Madonna and child. He would get drunk and preach religion to passers-by and rant about salvation, mortification and redemption. He had a deep-seated belief that he was beyond salvation and was bound for Hell and yet had a desire to attempt to atone for the sins of others in order to ensure their salvation. One minute he would be quoting William Blake and the next he would burn his own hand to punish himself for his sins. Blake is an intriguing character. Walters has carefully crafted a person whom the reader cannot fail to want to know more about.
As this is the very aim of the hero, she has successfully hooked the reader into following the plot with avidity. SATISFACTION FACTOR The plot can be fairly complex at times and full attention needs to be paid to the novel in order to keep up. Although the writing style is easy and the book can be devoured swiftly, it is not a light read as it demands the full concentration of the reader. The characters are not likeable enough for the reader to care about their fate but they are sympathetic enough to create sufficient interest in following their story. Ultimately we are most captivated by the identity of Blake. In search for clues other sub-plots are uncovered and while this creates further variety in the storyline it also takes some emphasis away from Blake, who was the main element of intrigue and I think that Walters may in some respects these sub-plots (although complex and interesting in their own way) seem to be almost a diversion leading us away from the crux of the matter. The book was entertaining enough and I did not feel an urge to discard it at any time. However, neither was I gripped with a desire to search out other works by the author and read more. OTHER INFO Publisher: Macmillan Publishers Ltd, Ecclestone Place, London Price: £5.99 ISBN: 0-330-34680-6