Family Life by Paul Charles

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Family Life by Paul Charles

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Once you're into this book you'll find an intriguing story and engaging characters but you might find the style a little difficult in the early pages.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Brandon Books
ISBN: 978-0863224041

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The Sweeney family along with wives, girlfriends and children were gathered at the family farm for Liam's birthday. There was just one empty seat at the table and the family waited for Joe – the only one of the children who wanted to farm – to return home. It wasn't Joe who arrived though – it was Inspector Starrett with the news that Joe's body had been discovered on land by a disused warehouse. There were no injuries to the body and Starrett could only assume that Joe had been murdered.

I so nearly didn't persevere with this book. I groaned my way through the early pages so heavy with description. Everything has a colour – black pinstripe suit, white shirt, green and white broadband tie, black shoes, straw-haired, red cheeked and tan chinos are all packed into a few sentences. Strangely the characters didn't appear in my mind at all other than as a series of shade cards and I couldn't help but contrast the style with Ian Rankin's where there is so little in the way of physical description but we all have such vivid images of the characters. Persevere though – because once you get through this there is a very good story.

Liam and his wife had four children. Thomas, the eldest is married to Mona and they are both solicitors. Teresa is the only girl and Joe, who loved the land with more passion than he showed his girlfriend, was the youngest. Ryan is 'the other child' but seems happy with his urban lifestyle and rich girlfriend. It's like any family though – there are undercurrents, rivalries and grudges – and this one is going to have a problem about the business. The farm is valuable – and not just as a farm but as development land – and when only one member of the family wants to farm the other members are not entirely happy that Liam wants the farm to pass to Joe.

It's an intelligent look at the way that families operate – sometimes with and sometimes in spite of each other. There's an elegant contrast too with Starrett's own life. Still single in his forties he's met up again with the woman he loved and left in his youth when he thought that he was destined for the priesthood. She's a widow now with three children of her own but seems reluctant to make a complete connection with Starrett, who has his own distractions in the form of a rather flirtatious hospital pathologist.

I took a while to sort out the Sweeney family (all those colours confused me) but once I had them and their wives, girlfriends and children sorted out I really began to enjoy the story. I did work out much of what had happened but not too far before the final page and the ending was satisfying and completely plausible.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another detective who was originally destined for the priesthood we can recommend Playing With Bones by Kate Ellis. Family Life is set in Donegal – for more Irish crime from that wonderful county we can recommend Bleed a River Deep by Brian McGilloway.

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Buy Family Life by Paul Charles at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Family Life by Paul Charles at


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