Having had the pleasure of meeting Jo Spain, I can tell you that she is a delightful person. That said, when she is in writing mode, don’t believe a word she says. Away from her superb police procedural series featuring Dublin copper Tom Reynolds, she has written several stand-alone thrillers, in which she practices to deceive. In The Perfect Lie, she bowled us a Googly or, for American readers, threw us a massive curve-ball:
In Don’t Look Back she runs through the complete repertoire of her trickery. She tells us the main characters are:
Luke Miller: A decent – but driven – investment banker who fall in love with, and marries –
Rose Miller: An Irish lass, née Gillespie, now a teacher in London and married to Luke, Has an abusive ex boyfriend called:
Kevin Davidson: A member of a rich and powerful Donegal family, whose wealth may not have been acquired entirely legally.
Mickey Sheils: A former lawyer, and onetime lover of Luke Miller. Originally from Ireland, now working in London to protect abused women from their abusive former partners. Able to act mostly pro-bono, thanks to her marriage to:
Nathan Sheils: A big man in The City, formerly Luke’s boss.
Be prepared, however, for some of these people to be – how best to put it? – not entirely who they appear to be. The story starts off in a fairly straightforward manner. Rose and Luke are married, but due to Rose’s trauma at the hands of Kevin Davidson, their courtship had been a case of two steps forward, one step back. Rose turns up at Luke’s workplace, complete with airline tickets and packed bags, and announces that she has arranged a super surprise – a delayed honeymoon on the idyllic Caribbean island of Saint-Thérèse. Their stay is blissful, but on the last night, Luke senses that Rose has become agitated and distracted. Then, she blurts out that they cannot possibly be on their return flight to London the next day.
The reason? Because on the floor of their bedroom in Luke’s flat, lying there since the day they left for Saint-Thérèse, is a corpse. It is the mortal remains of Kevin Davidson, who had been stalking Rose for weeks, and finally made his big appearance. They had fought, Rose had pushed him, he lost his footing and cracked his skull – with fatal consequences – on the sharp edger of a very solid piece of Edwardian furniture. Rose’s initial panic had metamorphosed into a plan. A desperate one, yes, but a temporary solution. Luke’s flat is the only one occupied on that floor, and its remoteness would give them at least a few days’ grace.
Luke books them out of their hotel and, despite having had a fairly frosty relationship with Mickey Sheils since he ended their affair, he calls her and asks her to go to his flat and investigate. Reluctantly, she does, but when she gets there, guess what? There is plenty of dried blood – but no body.
What follows is classic Jo Spain (left). One block at a time, she kicks away the supports of what we think we know about what is going on. I read the book on my Kindle, and even when it said 99%, there was time for one more surprise. This is wonderfully inventive stuff, and shows that one of Ireland’s finest writers is at the top of her game. As a footnote, I enjoyed the dramatic contrast in settings, with the tropical tourist paradise of Saint-Thérèse starkly juxtaposed against the bleak Donegal coast, where the icy horizontal rain takes no prisoners. Don’t Look Back is published by Quercus, and will be available on 11th May.