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Thursday, 30 March 2017

‘A Twist of the Knife’ by Becky Masterman

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
23 March 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-474-60578-6 (HB)

A new case for retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn is a treat to be anticipated with enthusiasm and impatience, especially if you're a woman of certain age who enjoys books in which feisty contemporaries grow old with a determined lack of grace.

Brigid Quinn has a superabundance of that hard-to-define quality called attitude, which got her into trouble in her days in the field, and is still getting her into situations most retirees are happy to sidestep. Not for her the dog-walking and cookery classes; she adores Carlo, the gentle, academically-minded husband of her autumn years, but can't seem to settle to domesticity, even if her past life would leave her alone, which it refuses to do.

In this, her third adventure, Brigid travels a couple of thousand miles from the home she shares with Carlo in Arizona, all the way to Florida where she grew up. Her father is in hospital, her mother is behaving very strangely, and her much younger friend Laura has left the FBI and has just five days to get a stay of execution for a man on Death Row, whose innocence she plans ultimately to prove.

And in Brigid's life, nothing is ever straightforward. Hospital visiting makes her jumpy and itchy, and helping out with Laura's investigation comes as a welcome relief. 

Brigid's sparky first-person narration reveals a sharp, flawed, insecurities-and-all character whose intelligence and perception haven't dulled a jot with the passing years. We see the other characters and Florida's unique climate and terrain through her vision, a tad biased by her sardonic eye but no less acutely drawn for that. The unfolding plot throws up a few jolts and surprises, not least the final twist; and we learn a lot more about Brigid herself and the background and childhood that shaped her than the previous books in the series divulge.

We also learn a few uncomfortable things about the process of law in parts of the USA. Hanging the threat of lethal injection over a man's head for sixteen years may seem like a form of torture – but is signing his death warrant for execution just five days hence any less so?

Becky Masterman is on of those skilled writers who makes the reader laugh, cry and think, all in the space of a few pages; and Brigid Quinn is as real as a character in a book can be. I'm already looking forward to the next in the series.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Becky Masterman, who was an acquisitions editor for a press specializing in medical textbooks for forensic examiners and law enforcement, received her M.A. in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University. Her debut thriller, Rage Against the Dying, was a finalist for the Edgar Award  for Best First Novel, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel of 2013, as well as the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony awards. Becky lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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