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Sunday 20 September 2015

‘The Taste of Ash’ by Christine Hammacott

Published by Pentangle Press,
26 February 2015.
ISBN: 978-1499590838 (PB)

Zoe Graham lives in Lee-on-Solent and works for a design agency. She shares a flat with her friend Claire Randall; she has a steady boyfriend, Ollie, and her life seems to be under control which is how she likes it. But one night there is a fire in her flat and she and Claire only just escape with their lives: worse happens to the occupant of the downstairs flat, Neil Wyatt, who is badly injured and subsequently dies. Both flats and their contents are more or less totally destroyed. Police investigation indicates that the fire was deliberate so that the police search is for an arsonist who is also a murderer. Zoe has lost everything and, with one leg broken and in plaster, has no money, no clothes and is traumatised by her experience. Her stepfather offers her refuge but she cannot forgive him for his infidelity to her dying mother so, after one night with him, she moves in with Ollie and his two flatmates, blokeish Mike and self-centred Darren. The arrangement isn’t really working but Zoe has nowhere else to go so she stays. She hopes for emotional support from her friends and work colleagues but, although they are sympathetic, that sympathy is limited. Only Darren’s friend Scott seems to take a real interest in Zoe’s feelings and that is as much because, as a freelance journalist, he is researching for an article on coping with the effect of trauma.

Then someone starts stalking Zoe: was that someone responsible for the fire and if so was she, and not Neil Wyatt, the target? As the stalking continues and becomes more menacing and actual danger to Zoe more ominous, her precarious hold on normality is threatened and her life increasingly spins out of control.

This is not only a ‘woman-in-jeopardy’ story, full of suspense, of how Zoe is first stalked and then her life is threatened but also an interesting and in-depth account of the effect of such a traumatic event on the psychological well-being of the victim.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Originally a short story writer she turned to novels as a more satisfying length. She writes page turning contemporary fiction that deals with the effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.

Radmila May was born in the US but has lived in the UK ever since apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and has been working for them off and on ever since. For the last few years she has been one of three editors working on a new edition of a practitioners' text book on Criminal Evidence by her late husband, publication of which has been held up for a variety of reasons but hopefully will be published by the end of 2015. She also has an interest in archaeology in which subject she has a Diploma.

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