East of Innocence by David Thorne

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East of Innocence by David Thorne

Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Think "Raymond Chandler meets Ray Winstone"… (with due apology to the actor!) as an Essex lawyer gets caught up with some seriously nasty people, on both sides of the law.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 314 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Corvus
ISBN: 9781782392200

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What's the difference between God and a lawyer? The man sitting across the desk from me, eyes fixed on my face, doesn't look like he'd appreciate the punch line.

Terry Campion wouldn't even understand the punch line, but then his lawyer, Daniel Connell knows just how untrue it is. He should. He's a lawyer who has somehow lost is ability to mete out his own salvation let alone anyone else's.

Connell grew up on the mean streets.

For those of us who grew up on American 'noir' and hard-hitting Hill Street Blues, the 'mean streets of Essex' does have a kind of comedy ring to it. In case that's where your mind is going, rein it back in this instant. This is noir – English style – wide open skies, deserted dockyards, seriously dodgy car-dealers and night-club owners you really wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.

And violence as a standard response rather than a last resort. Think 'Sweeney' rather than 'The Bill'.

It might be a publisher's tagline - On the edge of London and way outside the law – but in this case it's not a bad one.

Connell grew up on the fringes of all this. Somehow, he grew up to be a lawyer, a hot-shot city lawyer no less, but he's managed to get himself kicked out of his shiny high-rise office in a fashion that isn't going to get him back anywhere near the square mile any time soon. So, down on his luck, but still slightly high on his principles, he's back home taking what he can get. Mostly what he can get is 'personal injury' cases. The only reason he's not an ambulance chaser is that enough of the walking wounded walk through his door of their own accord.

Then Terry Campion walks in. A face from the old days. A reminder of school and all its bullies and blunders. Terry Campion is a different kettle of trouble altogether. He also grew up on the wrong side of the law in this low-lying land of low-life and minor gangsters. His dad was probably one of them. So it probably came as a bit of a shock locally when he became a copper.

However, he seems to be making a decent career of it: so why does he so desperately need a solicitor all of a sudden?

When an undercover drugs bust went slightly awry, but Campion kept his cover allowing himself to be arrested along with the others, and took one hell of a beating for his trouble. When he even mentioned taking the irregularity through channels the threats got worse, and extended to his family. Not willing to take this lying down, our copper has called in a favour or two and got a copy of the security footage. He has the evidence, but still, he's not willing to go to his own authorities. It's like he knows there's something more behind all of this than a simple 'it got out of hand' beating. He knows his old school pal hot-shot lawyer can fix it.

Connell knows different.

He really doesn't know what to do about the tapes, or Campion's claims. He does know it's not really his kind of work.

Maybe Campion does too – he skips the country.

Meanwhile Connell is trying to maintain some kind of semblance of a relationship with his usually drunk, totally angry father, who clearly resents his very existence. His girlfriend has just walked out after a temper tantrum of his own (nothing unusual there). And there's Gabe – his angel Gabriel if ever there was one – only Gabe seems to be on the edge of his own personal melt-down.

None of this is the really big news locally. The big news is a missing girl, and her boyfriend who is the current prime suspect… which has nothing whatsoever to do with any of Connell's cases.

The plot might be a little too obviously sign-posted in places, connections and predictions aren't that hard to make. This is compensated for by the writing.

Think Raymond Chandler meets Ray Winstone (with due apology to the actor!)… the language is definitely East London and points north, but stylistically there's more than a nodding reference to Philip Marlowe.

Connell might be a solicitor rather than a private eye, but his office might have been bought right of the Cahuenga Building and rebuilt, held together with gaffer tape obviously. He doesn't quite have Marlowe's winning ways with the ladies, but he does have his penchant for talking himself into the biggest trouble around. He might not carry a gun himself, but he certainly knows a man who probably still does.

Of course that makes the whole thing a bit derivative. It's just that I'm one of those readers that, far from seeing anything wrong in that, feels that when it's done as well as this, it actually has a charm all of its own.

Nothing particularly complicated or fussy about the thing, but it rattles along at the right pace to keep you to it until it's all worked out. I enjoyed it.

For more East Anglian crime with a sharp edge, I'd recommend Bolton's Lacey Flint novels Dead Scared or Like This, For Ever

Buy East of Innocence by David Thorne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy East of Innocence by David Thorne at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy East of Innocence by David Thorne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy East of Innocence by David Thorne at Amazon.com.


Booklists.jpg East of Innocence by David Thorne is in the Top Ten Crime Novels of 2014.

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