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Wednesday 1 November 2023

‘Dying Embers’ by Margaret Murphy

Published by Macmillan,
22 September 2000.
ISBN: 978-033390327-8 (HB)

For Geri Simpson, a teacher at St Michael's school, this Monday morning seems no different from any other. That Dean Connolly has not done his homework and is sent home ill after mid-morning break, doesn't strike Geri as unusual until she sees that Ryan, Dean's elder brother is absent from her class. Ryan is never absent and never bunked off lessons.

When Ryan's burned corpse is discovered, Geri cannot reconcile the verdict of death whilst experimenting with drugs, with the Ryan she taught and had come to know.

Although, the reader never meets Ryan Connolly alive, I felt profound regret at his death, as Margaret brings him alive through the reflections of other characters. As to the manner of his death, that frightened me, but then she has done that in earlier books, so I shouldn't be surprised, but then she still surprises me.

As Geri seeks to come to terms with both the death and the manner of the death of Ryan, she is beset on all sides by other problems. As a teacher she is assertive and together, except it seems where boyfriend Nick is concerned. She conveys to the readers her inability to stop the downward spiral of her relationship.

On a different level, she is aware that as she probes looking for answers, rumours and gossip could finish her teaching career. Only recently I reviewed, The Man at the Window by Betty Rowland, which also explored the difficulties experienced by teachers, and the damage done by unsubstantiated rumours.

Aside from this perplexing mystery, this book is rich in characters, we meet Agnes Hepple, a psychic leading a double life. Homeless, Adele living on the street. The descriptions of Adele making her place, from corrugated card, are heart rendering. And Geri's house mate Lauren gives an insight into the work of the Samaritans. The cross threads of Geri, Lauren, Adela and Agnes, all so different and yet each with their own set of fears and hopes is inspiring. They are all so well fleshed out, I would enjoy a book where each was the main character, so well defined is each of them.

The many facets of this book are woven skilfully together to portray a vivid picture of school life today, homelessness, relationships and murder!

Informative fascinating and h
ighly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Margaret Murphy writes internationally acclaimed and bestselling psychological thrillers under her own name, and forensic thrillers as Ashley Dyer and AD Garrett. She is a past Chair of the UK Crime Writers Association (CWA), founder of Murder Squad, and a former RLF Writing Fellow and Reading Round Lector. She’s been a country park ranger, biology teacher, dyslexia specialist and Visiting Professor in creative writing. And a CWA Red Herring award winner. 

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