Last Post by Robert Barnard
|Last Post by Robert Barnard|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Opening condolence letters Eve comes across a letter addressed to her late mother and is shocked by what she reads. An exploration of prejudice and family dynamics along with a neatly-plotted mystery make this highly readable.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: February 2008|
|Publisher: Allison & Busby|
May McNabb lived for only a few months after her retirement. She died of the breast cancer which she'd kept secret from Eve, her daughter. Her life had been devoted to her job – she was the much-respected headmistress of a local school and it was obvious from the flood of condolence letters that she would be greatly missed. Eve had hoped that they'd have time together once May retired – time for her to get to know her mother, the private person, rather than the headmistress. Amongst the pile of letters is one from someone who obviously doesn't know that May is dead and when Eve reads it she's shocked to find that her mother has been hiding a secret which would have rocked the local community had it become known. Eve decides that she must find the writer.
Robert Barnard is perhaps best known for his Charlie Peace police procedural novels, although they form a relatively small part of his prodigious output. A number of the books, such as The Graveyard Position give a cameo part to Charlie Peace or feature the police in the Leeds/Bradford/Halifax area. Last Post falls into the latter group as Eve strikes up a relationship with a young black policeman in the course of her search for the letter writer. Rather than following a police investigation we trace Eve's unravelling of the dynamics within her own family and of prejudice in the latter part of the twentieth century in the wider community.
As always with Robert Barnard it's a compelling story that moves from West Yorkshire, to Glasgow, Australia and then back home again as Eve unearths the story of her parents' marriage and friendships. The plot is elegant and there's a neat twist at the end which I certainly wasn't expecting, but which I really should have guessed at.
I did wonder if I was going to warm to the character of Omkar Rani, the young black policeman, but this did ease as he was diluted by other characters – and there's a wide cast, all deftly handled and with their part to play. Eve is a feisty character and it was easy to empathise with her feelings about her parents. Just occasionally the dialogue felt a little stilted – but that's me being picky about an otherwise very good book.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
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