A Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard
|A Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A classy police procedural set in West Yorkshire which will have you guessing right to the end about whether or not a crime has been committed. There's not a word wasted and some wonderful characters. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 300||Date: February 2008|
|Publisher: Allison & Busby|
Charlie Peace has been promoted. He's now Detective Inspector Peace and he's decided that the time has come to move his family out of the Leeds suburb where they've been living and into the countryside. Properties are expensive though and it's only possible with help from his father-in-law, the dreadful Rupert Coggenhoe, who wants to live with or near them. Charlie and his wife, Felicity, put their foot down about the 'with', reluctantly settle for the 'near' and move to Slepton Edge, not too far from Halifax.
Soon after their arrival Charlie sees a group of children chanting and jeering outside the home of an elderly couple new to the village. They have no idea of why they have been targeted. It's not the only problem to disturb the calm of this tightly-knit community – before long a body is discovered in mysterious circumstances and it's difficult to establish whether it's an accident, suicide or murder.
If I had to make a list of the most-underrated writers of crime fiction Robert Barnard would be near the top along with John Harvey. His writing style is direct and uncomplicated with never a word wasted. I'm always put in mind of the better novels of Ruth Rendell with their lack of pretension. The writing alone would make this book a pleasure to read.
The plot is excellent. It's beautifully constructed with all the clues neatly in place with the cleverest part being that right to the end you're still uncertain about whether a crime has been committed but when you have the explanation it's so obvious that you can't understand why you didn't realise what happened straight away.
The characters are well-drawn. Those of us who have followed Robert Barnard over the years have seen Charlie Pearce from his early days as a young, black policeman and there's a considerable background. Barnard's great skill is that he has no need to fill in this background other than with the faintest of brush strokes, but you're not left with the feeling that there are things that you don't know. The book would be good to read whether you've followed the series or started with this book. There's a whole cast of villagers – and if you've ever lived in a village you could put a face to just about every one of them, from the poisonous child to the elderly do-gooders.
I have been accused of being biased with regard to Robert Barnard as he writes about an area I know well. When the villagers had a meal in the Duke of York pub in Shelf I wondered if they had the table in the window. Slepton Edge is fictional, but I could almost pinpoint it on the map. You don't need to know the area at all to enjoy the book but it was an added bonus for me.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to the Bookbag.
Charlie Peace doesn't always star in Robert Barnard's novels – occasionally he takes a supporting roll, as in The Graveyard Position, which we also recommend. If good, unpretentious police procedural novels appeal to you then we think you'd also enjoy the work of Chris Simms. He's another northern writer, but with the misfortune of being from the wrong side of the Pennines.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard at Amazon.com.
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