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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

‘The Alibi’ by Jaime Raven

Published by Avon,  29 December 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-00-817149-0

Dubious gangland justice isn’t normally top of my must-read list, so I approached Jaime Raven’s second novel The Alibi with a degree of trepidation – especially when I found one of the novel’s three voices belongs to Danny Shapiro, leading light in East End gang culture, and another to Ethan Cain, bent copper in Danny’s pay.

But I needn’t have hesitated. Not only is Danny swiftly revealed as a reluctant gangland boss who would have preferred a different way of life, but the main narrative thrust comes from Beth Chambers, ambitious and not too scrupulous tabloid journalist who is determined to bring him down and isn’t particular how she does it. What’s more, Cain is Beth’s ex-husband, all of which makes for an interesting tangle of relationships.

Beth is about to enjoy a weekend in her native Peckham (an area which Raven clearly knows well) with her small daughter when a call comes in from the news desk. Megan Fuller, glamorous former soap star and Danny Shapiro’s ex-wife, has been found murdered in her apartment, and Danny is in the frame. But Danny has an alibi – which Beth determines to break.

The various machinations of the three protagonists soon gather pace, and the result is a fast-moving, high-octane, plot-driven storyline peopled with larger-than-life characters on both sides of the law. Long-kept secrets spill out and loyalties are tested; threats and violence hang in the air and occasionally come home to roost; no one, guilty or innocent, is safe as Danny fights to clear his name and Beth goes in to bat for her version of justice, and, of course, grab the front-page headlines.

None of the three main characters is easy to warm to, and there are plenty of others who are even less likeable; there’s a particularly repellent enforcer on Danny’s team. But I found myself involved in their story and carried along on the sheer narrative energy: I have no desire to encounter people like these in real life, but on the page I simply had to know what was going on. That has to be the mark of a rattling good yarn.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

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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