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Sunday 5 November 2023

‘Trading Tatiana’ by Debi Alper.

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
March 2004.
ISBN: 0-297-82991-2

Jo Cooper leads an uneventful life; selling jewellery on a Greenwich market stall, babysitting her neighbours’ kids, and trying not to pay too much attention to the noises made by the S&M devotees who live across the hall in a notorious council block on the Old Kent Road. She has a penchant for rescuing people but when her latest turn out to be a Ukrainian refugee, and a man in buttock-less leather trousers she finds chained to the roof of her building, she gets herself into almost more trouble than she can handle.

Debi Alper brilliantly evokes the lives of people living on the fringe – ex-drug-addicts, a young man with agoraphobia, and the seedy goings on in the world of people trafficking and prostitution. With subject matter such as that, the book should be bleak, but it isn’t. The central character, Jo, is engaging and sparky and the runaway teenage prostitute, Tatiana, is very believable in her complexity. The blurb says the novel is ‘darkly comic’ but I find little to laugh at in the trafficking of young girls, however Debi Alper writes with a lightness of touch that does leave room for lots of gentle moments. The relationship between Jo and the two girls she babysits is particularly sweet and touching. This is a book threaded through with the warmth of caring relationships and ultimately says a lot about the triumph of compassion over sleaze.

Full of fast-paced action and tension, Trading Tatiana is a book I recommend reading. It opened my eyes to a thing or two.
Reviewer: Ruth Wade

Debi Alper is a writer of contemporary thrillers, featuring a cast drawn from the sub-cultures of South London, Debi Alper is also a freelance editor, mentor and creative writing tutor.

Ruth Wade is a part-time lecturer teaching creative writing at local colleges and academies. She spends the remainder of her working week researching and writing crime novels. Weekends can find her either learning to dance the Argentine Tango in Cambridge or deep in the woods of Hertfordshire shooting a longbow. She was once the proud owner of a ruin perched on a mountainside in Spain’s Sierra Nevada, toiling the summer months stopping the place from falling down and tending the adjacent vineyard. These days she confines her physical labour to re-pointing the flint walls of her country cottage.  Ruth Wade also writes as BK Duncan. Under that name her historical crime novel Foul Trade (is the first in a series featuring May Keaps, a 1920's Coroner's Officer)

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