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Thursday 16 October 2014

‘Until Death’ by Ali Knight

Published by Hodder & Stoughton,
24 April 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-444-77713-0

 The majority of people have never experienced domestic abuse, and to many of them it’s a mystery why the abused partner doesn’t simply demand a divorce or run away.

Of course, it’s never that easy, though in Until Death Kelly Malamatos tries to do both – but Christos, her shipping magnate husband, is having none of it. When Kelly seeks a divorce, her lawyer disappears; and when she bolts with her children and hides out at an old friend’s house, Christos sends in the heavies to bring them back, and instals cameras in their luxury apartment to track her every move.

Meanwhile, customs and excise officer Georgie Bell is investigating Christos after a tip-off about the illegal importing of rare tropical hardwood.

Both Kelly and Georgie have pasts which will inevitably come back to haunt them – and the rare hardwood is only the tip of the smuggling iceberg.

Ali Knight weaves these threads skilfully into a tense, complex psychological thriller with plenty of action and suspense, and also poses some tough questions about responsibility, identity, family and whether nurture can ever fully triumph over nature. It’s set mainly against a London background – but a side of London not many people see. And the non-London scenes, which take place on board a vast container ship during a tropical storm, are every bit as graphic and spring vividly to life.

Mainly, though, it’s about the female characters and their strengths and weaknesses. Knight has a particular talent for creating strong yet flawed women. Kelly has already been through a lot, and is willing to stay with the hell that is her marriage for the sake of her children. Georgie is determined to rise above her upbringing, which has made her both tough and vulnerable. Sylvie, Christos’s mistress, is driven by a powerful desire for her own way, but has a weak spot which could prove her undoing.

The men don’t fade into the background, but they are more black-and-white, though no less sharply drawn for that. Christos is the archetypal selfish bully, but even he has his Achilles heel. On board the container ship, the man called The Wolf appears quite villainous, but there’s always a sense of more to him than meets the eye. Mo, Georgie’s sidekick at work, is sparky and sometimes touchy. Her brothers, father and uncle loom in the background, their petty crime and gangland background  threatening the straight-and-narrow life she has chosen.

Ali Knight has already received plaudits for her novels, and on this showing she is a talent to be reckoned with.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Ali Knight grew up in Bedford with an American father and an English mother and now lives in London with her family.  She is the author of two novels and is a freelance contributor to a number of newspapers and magazines, including The Daily Mail, The Guardian, Top Sante, Easy Living and Woman and Home. She worked for many years as a sub-editor and journalist on several national newspapers, including The Guardian, The Observer and The European, and at the BBC World Service. In addition she worked for the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard on two of their most successful websites, including This is London and This is Money.

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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