Penitence by Bruce Crowther

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Penitence by Bruce Crowther

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Great characters, a tightly-knitted plot and a recommended read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 266 Date: September 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1479204281

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Phil Davis is a detective in a small town in Texas and he's intrigued rather than professionally involved when he sees the body of an elderly road accident victim whose back is covered with scars which have obviously been inflicted over years if not decades. There's no suggestion that the death was anything other than accidental but Davis starts to wonder when he hears of other men with similar scars who have met an untimely - if seemingly innocent - death recently. And all his investigative instincts are alive when he encounters FBI agent Luis Valdez - seemingly one of the big beasts of the agency who's spending time looking into a murder with which he was incidentally involved as an adolescent some twenty five years earlier. To cap it all, someone was tried for the crime and has been in a mental institution since, so what is Valdez doing?

I think most book reviewers would agree that their hearts sink when they read of clashes with centuries-old religious extremism on a book cover. Dan Brown has a lot to answer for - but you can relax as Penitence is not another rip off. This is a well-written story which is going to hold you from the first page on its own merits.

I liked Phil Davis. He moved out to the sticks to get away from the high-crime centre of Dallas in the hope of a better life for his wife and child - only for his wife to be killed and his daughter crippled in a car accident. He's coming to terms with it - and his job's important to him. He's nobody's fool and he even gets on with his boss - in fact there's more than a little bit of sexual tension with the widowed Alice. Luis Valdez is Native American, but forget any of the stereotypes that might have sprung to mind. He's clever and he's sharp - and he's definitely got his own agenda. At the other end of the scale there's a killer on the loose and he's a frightening machine devoid of any normal sense of right or wrong. It's a very satisfying cast of characters.

The plot is good too. Bruce Crowther avoids the error of making it too complex to follow but there's still plenty to keep you guessing and the further into the book you get the more you realise just how carefully it's all been knitted together and there's a twist at the end which is most satisfying. The book's clever (in the best sense of the word) and a great read. I'd like to thank the author for ensuring that a copy arrived at the Bookbag.

For more crime from Texas we can recommend The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn.

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You can read more about Bruce Crowther here.


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