This is billed as a Jan Mason thriller – can you tell us who Jan Mason is?
Jan is a journalist, who at the start of the book is contemplating taking voluntary redundancy. Although she’s still the star journalist at her paper, it’s a while since she’s had a really big story and she’s considering going freelance.
The other main character is Jan’s contact, friend and, in the past, on/off lover, counter terrorism officer Frank Phillips. The action really starts when Frank is at an AA meeting – he’s been clean for a number of years, but still attends them regularly. This particular meeting is held by candlelight, and a man bursts in near the end. He’s unwilling to give his name but claims he may have killed someone in an alcoholic blackout. Thinking he may be a fantasist, or an attention seeker, or indeed someone in an alcoholic blackout, he gives little credence to the man’s claim.
However, the next day he hears about a murder close by the night before, and his police antenna starts twitching. But what’s said in the AA is sacrosant…isn’t it? Even murders…?
And Jan is on the case too…?
Of course she is! She’s heard about the murder, and is on the case, using all her police contacts and building a relationship with any possible witnesses. It’s soon the case that Jan seems to have more information than the police, which displeases the Investigating Officer, Hanley, greatly!
But who’s the victim?
The victim is a well-off young woman called Camilla Carew, and her father is the leader of a far right party – but one of these semi-respectable ones where they wear suits, not football tops and tattoos. He’s rich, and well-connected, so there’s pressure on the police to get this solved. (One can guess who he’s modelled on immediately!)
Apparently her father’s had one bugbear, according to Camilla’s very helpful neighbour and good friend, Nancy, a retired actress and widow. That was Camilla’s choice of male company. He reckoned all her boyfriends (as well as her ex-husband) were fortune hunters, preying on the generous Camilla. There was the recent ex, unsuccessful antiques dealer Bexington, who had an alcohol problem. Her ex-husband, Dewlish, had been a scrounger too, and despite moving to New York, was back in England, skint. And most recently – and shockingly, for her father – she was involved with a Labour Party aide called Wilson, and was planning on donating money to Labour in the hope of getting a safe seat to stand in at the next election. All end up as suspects.
But then there’s a second murder…?
Yes – a young gay man called Sean Malahide. There’s a link – Camilla’s Hermes scarf, the one that was possibly used to strangle her, is found in his flat, and was possibly used to kill him. There’s no reason for the two victims to know each other – but Sean had recently joined the AA group that the man had appeared at. Is he getting rid of Sean as he thought he might have recognised him?
But the police have their sites set on Bexington, who’d been harassing Camilla, and had gone to AA in the past. Do they have the right man, or are they barking up the wrong tree?
An attack on another AA member – which they fight off – shows this is a dangerous man who must be got off the streets at all costs. But there are so many with motives, it’s hard to know which horse to back…
So how did you enjoy Don’t Talk?
A great deal actually – I particularly liked where the title came from, a 10,000 Maniacs song from the In My Tribe album – one of the albums I listened to a great deal through the ’90s, and still adore!
I kept changing my opinion as to who the killer was, and so in that respect Ian Ridley really kept me on my toes, as all the best crime books do. There were a couple of small errors – ages changed, and rugby only gets a capital R if it’s the school you’re referring too – but nothing that detracted from the tension and pace of the novel.
Most of all, Jan, especially, and Frank too, as well as Deena Andrews, a young police officer in Hanley’s team – and not forgetting Nancy, who the police underestimated greatly, unlike Jan – were all hugely charismatic and likeable characters. I would have liked to have thought the Met were slightly more open minded about policemen being in the AA, so that Frank’s fears about people finding out about his membership would have been irrational. But they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently…
I’d definitely like to read more about Jan and Frank in the future – Hartley is a hugely promising writer!
A solid police procedural/journalism investigation that could develop into a really good series!
With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, and V Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of this book, and this is an honest review.
Writer Ian Ridley
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BLURB: When catching a killer means betraying a code…
When investigative reporter Jan Mason discovers that a young woman found strangled to death in her Chelsea flat is the daughter of a prominent politician, she knows she has a big story on her hands.
What she doesn’t know yet is that a mystery man has just told a stunned Alcoholics Anonymous meeting nearby that he might have killed his partner in a drunken blackout. And that Jan’s old flame, Jim Phillips, the Metropolitan Police’s deputy head of counter terrorism and a recovering alcoholic himself, was in that meeting – bound by its confidentiality. Soon, a member of the AA meeting will also be found dead, strangled with the same scarf.
Resourceful, well-connected, and always one step ahead of the police, Jan is willing to put herself in harm’s way if it means catching a killer. And landing a front page exclusive.