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Sunday, 11 August 2019

‘Bending the Rules’ by Jeff Dowson

Published by Williams and Whiting,
24 July 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-91258233-4

Jack Shepherd is used to the sight of dead bodies, both from his previous job as a police officer and his current work as a private investigator. However, it is a totally new experience to start the day by discovering the body of a stranger, shot through the back of the head, seated in his car. Fortunately for Jack, he is on good terms with Detective Superintendent Harvey Butler, the boss of Avon and Somerset’s Murder Investigation Team, and this means that the police accept that he is innocent.

When Jack gets to his office he has to deal with the subject of another dead body left in a car, but this time the death occurred three days earlier, when solicitor Avery Wells was found dead in his parked car. Wells had also been shot through the head. The coroner ruled the death as suicide but Wells’ sister, Alice, wishes to employ Jack to investigate further and also to take a second look at the death of Wells’ wife, three weeks before his own, apparently an accidental death from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Jack’s day does not improve when he is invited to a lunchtime drinks reception by a man who has an office in the same building, Neville Jacobs, a very rich, very successful, malignant narcissist, a corrupt and evil man, so powerful he can get away with murder. It is evident that Jacobs knows Jack’s new client, Alice Wells, but that doesn’t explain why Jacobs has singled Jack out. Whatever the reason, Jack knows that being the focus of Jacobs’ attention is not a good thing. He does not believe that it is a coincidence that Jacobs has inserted himself into his life within minutes of him accepting Alice Wells as a client. Jack doesn’t know what is going on, but he is sure that Jacobs is involved.

At the reception, Jack is cornered by Larry Parkland, an unpleasant man who is determined to employ Jack to find the whereabouts of his wife, Helen, who has left him. Jack refuses. He is sure that he has made a wise choice when a very beautiful woman called Charlie, who is acting as a hostess at the party, tells him that Helen has left her husband from choice and had spent the previous night with Charlie and her husband.

Later that afternoon the police return Jack’s car. They have discovered the name of the dead man and ask Jack if he has had any dealings with a photographer called Keith Williams. Jack still has no memory of the man, but after the police have left, he looks up Williams’ address and goes to check it out. This is not a good decision on a day where so many things have gone wrong. When he gets to the flat, Jack is attacked and, when he regains consciousness, he discovers Helen Parkland’s dead body. Again, Jack has good fortune mingled with the bad. Helen has been dead for several hours, which makes it unlikely that Jack could have killed her.

However, even a good friend’s patience can wear thin and, when Jack takes rather too forceful action to deal with a driver that is trailing him, Harvey Butler is tempted to arrest him. Instead he allows Jack to travel stealthily to the north of England in an attempt to track down the one man who can bring down Neville Jacobs. For Jack the whole experience is a nightmare of danger and frustration as he tries to catch up with his prey while staying alive himself, and even more important, protecting the people he loves from being brought into danger by his recklessness. In the end, the hunter becomes the hunted and Jack is in one of the most dangerous situations of his life.

Bending the Rules is the fourth book in the series featuring Jack Shepherd. It is a fast moving, intricately plotted novel, which explores many of the darker social issues of our time. Jack is a protagonist who is fallible but determined and, above all, is a man of great integrity. As I was reading, he reminded me of Don Quixote, and I was amused when Jack likens himself to that legendary fighter of lost causes. Jack is a likeable protagonist with an appealing network of family and friends that he cares about deeply and would do anything to protect. Bending the Rules is a superb thriller and an incisive social commentary on corrupt and dangerous times. It is a page turner. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Carol Westron  

Jeff Dowson began his career working in the theatre as an actor and a director.  From there he moved into television as an independent writer/producer/director. Screen credits include arts series, entertainment features, drama documentaries, drama series and TV films. Turning crime novelist in 2014, he introduced Bristol private eye Jack Shepherd in Closing the Distance.  The second thriller, Changing the Odds, was published the following year.  Bending the Rules is the latest in the series. He is a member of BAFTA and the Crime Writers Association. 

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 the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

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