I've long been a fan of Roy Lewis' series of Eric Ward novels, and this one may be the best of a good bunch.
Eric Ward is a complex character - a former policeman who is now a solicitor (lawyer) in a North England town, he has suffered from an eye disease and is too independent to move in a crowd. As this book opens, he has been divorced for awhile from wealthy and well-connected Anne, and has turned his back on opportunities for a lucrative corporate and business practice. Ward prefers to serve a middle and working class clientele from his office in an unfashionable part of town. At a law association dinner he encounters Anne, who asks him to look in on farmer and old neighbor Paddy Fenton, who's in a bit of legal trouble.
Thus Ward gets involved in a fast-moving and complex set of events, including murder - which is finally untangled only on almost the final page of this exceedingly good crime novel.
Like many UK farmers, Paddy's been nearly wiped out by disease epidemics - or by the heavy-handed response of the government to those epidemics, take your pick. Approached to rent out his barn for a few days, Paddy took the money and asked few questions, because he was going to be away at the time. But the police had the place staked out, and arrested a small group of men producing "smokies" - illegally slaughtered, fire-seared whole sheep carcasses for which there is a big underground market in the UK in some immigrant communities, and which are a health hazard because they are not properly butchered. A policeman on the raid is badly injured by one of the fleeing criminals, who is then chased by a mixed bunch of characters through the rest of the story. Now Paddy's under pressure from the police who suspect he may know more than he's letting on, and they are after the bigger fish who are making millions off this underground meat industry.
Paddy loudly swears vengeance on the man to whom he let his barn - and then a disfigured body is discovered and identified as that very fleeing felon.
Lewis tosses into this plot an assortment of career criminals - high-ranking, low-crawling, up-and-coming, and more - and on the other side of things, a mixed lot of police officers, judges, and lawyers. Then he blends it all with the sure hand of a master crime writer and serves up some neatly turned surprises. The "good guys" aren't all as they seem, but Lewis didn't make it easy for me to sort them out before much truth was laid bare at the very end of the tale.
- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Allison & Busby LTD (1 December 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0749006773
- ISBN-13: 978-0749006778
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 408 g
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