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Thursday, 6 March 2014

‘Art of Deception’ by A J Cross

Published by Orion Fiction, 
31 October 2013.   
ISBN: 978-1-4091-4271-3

The central character of Art of Deception is Dr Kate Hanson, a forensic psychologist who juggles a busy lifestyle as a divorced woman caring for her twelve-year-old daughter Maisie; a university lecturer; and a member of Birmingham Police's Unsolved Crimes Unit.

The body of a young man who went missing twenty years ago is discovered under the floorboards of a deserted lake house in Woodgate Country Park, an area that is notorious for drug dealers and sexual offenders. The dead boy is identified as Nathan Troy, a nineteen-year-old art student. As Kate and her colleagues investigate Nathan's death, fears arise that the body had been discovered and the damaged floor relaid. Another teenage boy has gone missing and there is good reason to fear he has come to harm. Has Nathan's killer murdered again after twenty years? And, if so, has the murderer been dormant for that length of time or are there other victims in the Country Park?

Everyone that Kate questions about Nathan offers her a different viewpoint of the young man. Was he the decent, caring, moral person that his parents describe? Or was he a drug user, out for what he can get, as some of his contemporaries claim? Where did Nathan disappear to on the day he was supposed to accompany his father to London to show him some art galleries? Was that the day he died, despite a witness who claimed to have seen him some days later?

Kate has many questions about Nathan's life and death and instinct tells her that the answers can be found in the art department, where she discovers more contradictions, corruption and many dysfunctional relationships that have been festering for decades. As more deaths occur, fear mounts for the safety of other young people whom the police find themselves unable to protect, and Kate realises that her own life and reputation are in danger.

Art of Deception is a well written, intriguing book that maintains the tension and interest throughout, despite the large cast of characters and the complex nature of the crimes. Kate and her police colleagues are likeable individuals, who form a good working team, and the relationships between them are especially well drawn, encompassing both disagreements about approach and procedure and the underlying affection and respect they feel for each other. However, I did wish that Kate (who spends a lot of time warning her daughter about staying safe) was not quite so ready to frequently put herself in harm's way

The underlying themes of perception and deception are carried through the book, subtly and consistently, until it reaches a logical and satisfying conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

A J Cross is a Forensic Psychologist and frequent court-appointed expert witness. She obtained her Masters Degree and PhD at the University of Birmingham, the latter relating to children as witnesses within the criminal court system.  Anne's professional experience has included consultancy work for the Probation Service in her home city. Anne currently lives in Birmingham with her jazz-musician husband. 

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, published July 2013

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