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Saturday 30 April 2022

‘The Choice’ by S.J. Ford

Published by Head of Zeus,
3 March 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-80110137-0 (PB)

Ask yourself this: if you knew for certain someone was about to detonate a bomb in a school-full of children including your own, and no one would listen when you tried to tell them, would you grab the opportunity to kill the killer before he could do the deed? That’s the choice that faces Jane Bell one otherwise ordinary winter day. There are no spoilers here, no mystery about what she chooses to do; it’s made plain on the second page of this unusual crime novel. As she returns home she sees her neighbour James Foster fetching in his wheelie bin – and drives her car straight towards him at speed, killing him almost instantly. She admits it right away, and even signs a confession.

All the same, is she a murderer who mowed down a defenceless man in cold blood, or a hero who saved the lives of nearly three hundred children? That is the question the novel sets out to explore.

The answer may be obvious, but in law it’s far from simple, and Jane finds herself remanded in custody and eventually on trial for murder despite huge support from the media, the public and even the detective inspector charged with interviewing her. The story unfolds from multiple viewpoints, all narrated in the first person: the detective, a newspaper reporter, the barrister who volunteers to defend her pro bono, a member of the jury, Jane’s husband who is left to cope with family life, and of course Jane herself. 

The background to Jane’s horrific act emerges slowly, through the eyes of all these characters, all of whom have their own story as well. Bill the detective is juggling a demanding job with a wife with terminal cancer and two teenage sons. Aneesa the reporter has spent most of her life searching for her missing mother. Simon the barrister has history with Aneesa and is gradually realizing there is more to life than his high-powered career. Mary the juror discovers inner reserves. Neil the husband also finds he is stronger than he thought. We even learn that James Foster had his own reasons for planning such a horrific act.

And Jane... Jane is just an ordinary woman hurled into an extraordinary situation. One thing is certain: whatever the outcome of the trial, she is responsible for the death of a man, and that knowledge is something she must learn to live with.

The result is an intriguing exploration of a knotty problem. It will make you think about the nature of good and evil, and where, if anywhere, to draw the line between them.

And that outcome? Hero – or murderer? You decide.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

S.J.Ford lives in the Cheshire countryside. She currently works in online marketing and writes part-time - gathering the quirky, emotional and problematic to feed her imagination and unleash her pen. She has a Golden Retriever that she relishes going on adventures with, a horse that lets her fly, and her favourite place is Cemaes Bay on Anglesey. The Choice is SJ's debut novel in this genre.

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.

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