From The Shadows by Neil White

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From The Shadows by Neil White

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Fast paced crime drama that delivers. Defence solicitor Dan Grant and his investigator Jayne Brett get a case transferred at short notice and nothing is stacking up. Characters you want to relate to, and some you don't, and a drive that keeps going right to the end. This is the good stuff.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: August 2017
Publisher: Zaffre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785760921

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I'm a bit old-fashioned and therefore not a great fan of stories that can't keep their timeline straight. I'll go with a prologue – even if it's becoming a bit of clichéd way of creating a mystery at the beginning of a story – but switching between 'now' and 'a fortnight ago' – just feels a little lazy, a way of creating tension when all else fails. That, however, is my only little gripe about From The Shadows and I admit, whether I like it or not, it does more or less work.

So, what happened a year ago…was a stalker of a different order, or a voyeur with a strange predilection for getting too close…got, well, too close.

Now, Mary Kendricks has been murdered and Robert Carter is standing trial for murder. Mary's friends insist he has been harassing her, but then their reaction to her death has been pilloried in the press. Carter's case is not helped by his absolute insistence on a story that just does not ring true to anyone that hears it. Then his lawyer, only two weeks before the trial, declares a conflict of interest and hands the case off, not just to another lawyer, but to a competing firm. Only, she refuses to say what the conflict of interest is.

Enter Dan Grant, a jobbing defence solicitor, in it for the pride in the job, for the vocation, he is - what? If he were a journalist, you'd call him a hack, I don't know what the equivalent expression for a solicitor is. But that's Dan Grant. A jobbing legal guy – does what's needed, turns out at every hour that's necessary, plays by the rules (mostly). And because this is fiction, he's got an unlikely side-kick in Jayne Brett. He calls her his "caseworker". She calls herself a private investigator. She's probably somewhere between the two. She's unlikely not because of the job, but because of how she came to have it. She and Grant have history. There's something about them that makes you think they probably have 'future' too, but we'll have to see about that in due course. For now they've got two weeks, an unhelpful client and a whole lot of questions without answers.

Why has the case been handed over? Why didn't the head of the previous firm know about that? What is Robert Carter hiding…and what about the dead woman's housemates – are they for real? Most importantly, this close to trial, how come there are so many blanks and gaps?

Encouraged by his own boss to book the case and bank the fee, Grant is one of those who just won't do that…he has to dig, between them he and Brett have to find the truth of the matter. Oh, he'll defend the client to the best of his ability either way, that's the job…but (son of a union-man) it's not just about the job – it's about the principle. He needs to know if he's defending an innocent man or a guilty one.

So the investigations begin…and the danger of asking questions becomes apparent.

Meanwhile, we get to see what our investigators don't. We're treated to the sordid thoughts of the stalker… with only the merest hints to tell us whether it is Carter in his cell, or someone still on the outside.

My own preference for linear timelines aside, From the Shadows does everything a crime novel should…sets the stage and then casts doubt on the motives of just about everyone on it, places everyone in jeopardy, throws in an extra body or two just to make sure you don't know who is going to survive this, and then ramps up the pace. Throw into that someone who knows how to evoke a place, without having to name every last street on the map, and has a neat turn of phrase and you've got pure entertainment.

The fact that it had me checking the locks is entirely beside the point!

If you enjoy this, check out White's early work here or for more of the best of British that might also have you checking your doors we can recommend Like This, For Ever by S J Bolton.

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