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Wednesday 28 July 2021

‘Single Cell’ by Phil Rowlands

Published by Diamond Crime,
10 April 2021.  
ISBN 978-1-8384026-3-1 (PB)

It’s not often that a couple of Catholic priests are the most entertaining characters in a psychological thriller.  Mind you, Fathers Peter Satorri and Liam Orpizeski are not exactly ordinary priests. Although they have the expected qualities of kindness and spirituality, are good company and like a drink or two, in their spare time they happen to be sometime members of a secret “problem solving” Vatican unit rather akin to our MI5.

When Deputy Prison Governor, Giles Lawson, becomes worried about the supposed suicide of life-prisoner Frank Clarke and the incredibly early parole of Frank’s erstwhile cell mate, Ralph Bateman, he consults the prison’s Chaplin, Peter Satorri.  Another prisoner, Sidney Pargeter, tells Peter he thinks Frank was “helped” to die.  Unfortunately, Sidney is killed before Giles gets a chance to talk to him.  Although the Prison Governor instructs Giles to drop his enquiries, Peter and Giles elect to continue with their investigations. Peter enrols the help of Valerie Loring, an attractive investigative journalist, who starts researching the deaths of other life- prisoners.  She also suggests that Peter should seek help from an old friend, Stephen Caron, who helped him through a bad patch before he became a priest.

Whilst all this was going on, several small cameos pop up in the text.  They tell us that the lives of six people: a senior academic, an MP, a hotelier, a senior police officer and captains of industry have been destroyed by the murder or rape of a loved one. Aided and directed by a Faustian character who has definitely sold his soul to the devil, the six form a committee whose aim is to organise the killing of those serving life sentences for rape and murder.

Single cell gathers pace as it progresses. Giles’ family - lively seventeen-year-old twins Kate and Sally and feisty wife Patty - become involved when efforts to transfer them to safety go astray. Valerie’s boat is blown up killing policemen who are playing catchup. Further violence seeks and finds many of those busy dishing out their version of justice to others who have sinned. In their search to destroy the devil masterminding the summary executions, Peter, Liam, Valerie and Giles take to hopping around in private planes. Their endeavours are ably supported by the next generation of holy, or not so holy, handsome young priests and their relatives.

For me, the strength and sheer joy of this book lies not so much with the action, though there is plenty of that, but with the repartee between the characters.  Giles’ twins and his wife keep him on his toes and Fathers Peter and Liam, not to mention Valerie and the support teams, excel at producing a wealth of delightfully apposite comments that sum up a variety of unusual situations.  All in all, a most engaging and diverting read.

Reviewer Angela Crowther.

Phil Rowlands is a screenwriter, author and producer. After many years as a 'safe pair of hands' actor, mainly in film and television, he moved into the production side as a freelance writer and producer. He has written feature films, TV and radio dramas, documentaries and animation series and is an experienced script doctor/editor and story consultant. In 2009 he was one of the co-founders of Funky Medics, a production company focussing mainly on innovative health education. Their diverse animated and live projects have included singles and series on heart disease, diabetes, smoking and drug abuse. A revised version of his first novel, Siena, has recently been republished by new indie publisher Diamond Books along with his second, Single Cell. A third TimeSlip will be released in August 2021. Originally from Pembrokeshire in West Wales, he now lives near Cardiff and has British nationality and Canadian citizenship.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Angela for your lovely review and kind words.