As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Little Brown, 5 March 2020. ISBN: 978-1-4087-1160-6 (HB)
Some books are so gripping and entertaining that you want to race
through them to find out what happens. Others, equally fascinating, make you
want to linger over them, to savour the quality of the plotting and character
building; or maybe they're just so brilliant you don't want them ever to end.
Each of John Fairfax's series
featuring William Benson, convicted murderer and now criminal barrister, falls
firmly into the second category. I could have galloped through Forced
Confessions in a couple of sittings, but I made myself slow down, relish
each twist and turn and revelation and make sure I extracted every nuance – especially
when those revelations involved Benson's own backstory which has run through
all three in the series.
This time, as before, Benson
is defending a man accused of murder, against whom the evidence seems
compelling, even incontrovertible. John Lynwood's wife Karen is accused alongside
him, though not of murder but of perverting the course of justice. And as
before, Benson, convinced of their innocence, digs around in places other
barristers would not go to, in search of evidence of his own.
And as if their story wasn't
enough, Benson's past is conspiring against him. Helen Camberley, the barrister
who defended him at his own trial and supported him throughout his prison term
and in his post-prison career, is in hospital close to death. Richard Merrington,
Secretary of State for Justice, who has been Benson's sworn enemy from the
start, is wheeling and dealing in order to prevent certain facts which threaten
his own ambition from coming to light. And the Harbetons, the East End no-good
family of the man he was convicted of killing, are out for his blood. Small
wonder he is in danger of sinking into a deep depression.
The two stories unfold in
parallel, peopled by familiar and unfamiliar characters, all of them rounded
and real. Surprisingly, Benson himself, though firmly at the centre of both
strands, appears largely through the eyes of other characters, mainly Tess de
Vere, the solicitor who always believed in him and now provides much of his
work. It's Tess who has begun to unpick the evidence which put him behind bars,
and some shocking truths come to light as she digs down.
William Benson's story is at
the heart of one of the most enthralling series to have come my way for a very
long time, and Forced Confessions only serves to reinforce that view. Rationing
myself to a few chapters at a time was both a challenge and a necessity to
ensure I didn't miss a trick. And I can't wait to see where John Fairfax takes
the series next.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
John Fairfax is
the pen name of William Brodrick who practised as a barrister before becoming a
full-time novelist. Under his own name he is a previous winner of the Crime
Writers Association Gold Dagger Award and his first novel was a Richard and
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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half
of them crime fiction.