Frankie by Kevin Lewis

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Frankie by Kevin Lewis

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: When a violent exchange results in murder, Frankie knows she has to disappear - but then she unknowingly finds herself the possessor of information that some very powerful people need to stay secret, people who will stop at nothing to ensure they get their way. Satisfying twists don't overcomplicate the plot in a well-paced story of crime, corruption and life on the run.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: March 2007
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-0141021317

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On a November evening in London a young woman is rationing a bottle of cheap alcohol... there's nowhere near enough of it to get her through a winter night, but you have to try. She wanders towards Newington Park, where she knows there'll be company and fires - if she's invited close enough to appreciate them. She finds those, but also she finds Stubbs... the lowest of the low, the exploiter of those with nothing left to take.

He's known in these circles. He takes the young ones, the still-pretty ones, he helps them... into dependence... then into the vice to pay for it... and ultimately (one assumes) into the death to escape it. He is not a nice person. He will not be gainsaid.

Mary is only fourteen and new to the streets; she is trying hard to stay out of Stubbs' world. He cannot allow anyone to show that that is a choice.

Frankie has come across Mary before. She knows how vulnerable the child is; she knows how lucky she herself is to have stayed this clean, this safe, for four years on the streets - having arrived no older than Mary. As the situation becomes increasingly more violent Frankie has to intervene.

Violence of this kind inevitably ends in death, so Frankie is now not only homeless, penniless... she is also on the run.

Meanwhile, in a more salubrious part of town a senior, if somewhat scared, accountant of a merchant bank is breaking into the boss's computer upon orders from outside.

She gets what she came for... but waiting for her contact on Chelsea Bridge, she is mugged.

And Frankie crashes into a world far more complicated and far more violent than anything she could have previously imagined.

They say never judge a book by its cover, and in this case it is literally true. Lewis should have words with the people at Penguin. Whoever the pretty blond on the cover is, she is not Frankie - nor any of the other characters - there is not enough real hard "life" in that picture... and there is plenty of it in the story.

We follow Frankie as she tries to stay alive, stay safe, protect those she cares about... at the same time, we follow the stories of those in whose own drama she has inadvertently become entwined, the powerful and the dangerous... the third thread is the investigators trying to put the pieces together and come up with a measure of justice...

The pace does not let up for a moment and the ability to shift viewpoint helps in keeping it going. There is always something happening - either to Frankie or to those she is running from or others who need to find her. Whatever is happening, the focus remains on Francesca Mills... who she is, what happened to her to bring her to this, where she might be, where she is... whoever we are watching and listening to, she is always there. Central. Allowing the adventure to pivot about the main character in this way gives the reader a reason to care.

Lewis' skill with plot, allowing the information to be drip-fed, sneaking in hints and possibilities, keeps you turning the pages, needing to know what happens next; his sense of place (London and the Provinces) is overt enough to be real but never over-played; his detail in weapons and politics and policing is sound enough to the untrained eye; his ability to move convincingly between the down-and-out and the ultra-rich and back into middle-England without shifting tone, without patronising or snubbing any of the lifestyles yet drawing out the flaws in all of them makes you think beyond the story; but ultimately it is the fact that he makes us care about Frankie that really brings the novel to life. Her vulnerability and her strength, her violence and her morality are totally engaging.

Entertaining, intriguing, and surprisingly believable.

Our thanks to the publishers, Penguin Books, for sending this novel.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Hidden by Katy Gardner.

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Magda said:

To me the cover speaks 'Martina Cole' bunch. Is this correct?

Lesley replied:

The blurb also makes a Martina Cole connection, but as I'm not familiar with her work, I can't really comment.