Nothing Sacred by David Thorne

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Nothing Sacred by David Thorne

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Down on his luck Essex lawyer is back, this time taking on the case of an ex-girlfriend who may just have beaten up her kids, whilst worrying about exactly what kind trouble his ex-army mate has got into that has just got them run off the road and threatened at gunpoint. A rattling good read from an author that one feels is only just gearing up...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2015
Publisher: Corvus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1782393634

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Just over a year ago I described Thorne's first book East of Innocence as Raymond Chandler meets Ray Winstone. I gather that an eight-way auction saw Tiger Aspect securing the option rights for a TV series. I'm looking forward to it. Can't help wondering if they roped Winstone in (and if I'm up for a cut of the agent fees?).

Meanwhile, Daniel Connell, the not-so-hot-anymore-shot lawyer protagonist from East of… is back and back in even bigger trouble than before.

His sole partner solicitor business is still struggling much as Marlowe's P.I. outfit did, and he's still operating out of a similarly impressive office. The clients he does have, don't have much hope.

On the upside, his private life is looking distinctly happier. Maria hasn't quite moved in yet, but she's very much his and very much more than he will ever think he deserves. Life is almost looking good.

Then the ex turns up. Well, ex would be putting it a bit strongly. Connell and Vick (for Victoria) had a thing a very long time ago. They went their separate ways. She got wrecked, got clean, got married, had kids, got divorced… and now she's quite possibly going just a bit crazy. Things are happening in her flat, mad things, bad, seriously bad things, things that she's sure she's not doing. But no-one else can be.

And it's not entirely clear that she's still sober.

Is she mad? Or bad? Or has she somehow got herself mixed up with people too dangerous to know?

Meanwhile, there's Connell's best friend Gabe. For thriller writing to work, you need one of two things in your central character. Either he has to be willing to cross over the strict lines drawn by the law, or he has to have a trusted accomplice to do that for him. Or preferably both. When your main character is a lawyer, who'd soon be out of business (in this country) if he trod too far outside too many times, you definitely need the sidekick.

Gabe is not your average sidekick. An infantry vet of the latest series of wars who was on a fast-track to officer-ship until he lost a leg in Afghanistan. Declining the desk job the army owed him, he took the pension, whatever prosthetics and rehab they could offer and went home to Essex where he now seems to be living well on an invisible income. Still fit, playing doubles tennis with his partner Connell, and generally holding it together.

He's still one tough cookie.

When he and Connell take a day out to go ocean fishing, it's Gabe that lands the shark.

And when on the way home, they get run off the road and delivered a no uncertain terms last warning… it's not clear which of them it's aimed at. So what exactly is Gabe mixed up in?

We're back in the seedy side of Essex, where the east end gangsters move out to when they get tired of city streets, where thugs can terrorise the locals without having too much competition for turf, where there's lots of open space for people to hide… and more than enough nastiness for them to want to hide from.. but there are also diversions away from the ugly, tawdry brick and concrete sprawl of Essex commuter towns, we also find ourselves in the cold desert hills of Afghanistan, and if we don't quite walk in the valley of the shadow of the corridors of power, we hear the dim echoes that vibrate out from such places.

If you want to level a criticism at Thorne's approach you can question his use of female characters. They're very much, well, to be polite old school.

As he puts it: Young women marrying money has a long tradition and in my neighbourhood has never appeared to go out of fashion, feminism never having gained a convincing toehold in Essex. To strike gold there were, broadly, two options: find a local up-and-coming self-made man, or get a PA diploma and head for the City, as Jade had done. Villains or bankers – in the final analysis, the money was equally grubby. It would still buy a mansion, furs, pay for summers in St Tropez, so really, who cared?

There's something very 1960s, black-and-white, thuggishness about the approach. Maybe Essex really is like that on the dark side, I wouldn’t know. But there is part of me that hopes the next outing for Connell sees him up against, or siding with, some kick-ass-don’t-take-it female. So far his women do tend to be 'birds or victims'.

That one anachronism aside, the writing is spot on. The pace is fast, the tension holds, and the ifs and buts played for all they're worth. The final wrap up is as ludicrously satisfying as you could hope for the genre and he even manages to slip a few snide very 21st century politico-social comments under the wire.

Good stuff.

If you enjoyed this, we'd recommend starting from the beginning with East of Innocence. For more thrills on the eastern edge of England, we'd also heartily recommend Losing You by Nicci French.

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