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Barnard, Robert - 'A Fall From Grace'
Hardback: 240 pages (Feb. 2007) Publisher: Allison & Busby ISBN: 074908197X

Charlie Peace has just been promoted to the rank of Detective Inspector. He and his wife Felicity are expecting their second child and they would like to move out of the city. The trouble is they can't afford it. Then Felicity's father, Rupert, makes them a very surprising offer. He will help financially on condition he lives either with or near them. Rupert is a very selfish and demanding man, and after much agonising, Felicity and Charlie finally accept his offer.

They find just the houses they are looking for in the village of Slepton Edge, a comfortable commute from the big city. One of the first people Charlie and Felicity meet is Chris Carlson, a semi-retired doctor who is running for Mayor. Chris is an admired member of the community who has taken on the role of unofficial counsellor to the village. Like Felicity, Chris' wife is also pregnant, so they have quite a lot in common and quickly become friends.

Shortly after settling in, Felicity and Charlie find a small group of children chanting insults outside the home of an elderly couple. They appear to be quite young; too young to be so well organised. A few enquiries lead them to the local school,. The ringleader of the chanting group is the school's star actress, fifteen-year-old Anna Michaels, a nasty piece of work who seems to delight exercising power over others. Even more worrying, Rupert seems to have taken young Anna under his wing.

When Rupert is found dead at the bottom of a quarry, the local Detective Inspector is adamant that it was an accident or suicide. Charlie and Felicity believe there is more behind his death than appearances suggest and undertake their own informal enquiries.

Although Charlie is a Detective Inspector, there is almost nothing of his working life in A FALL FROM GRACE. The story centres entirely around his family life and he and his wife settling into a new community. Although this is the eighth Charlie Peace novel, it was my first encounter with him and I'm afraid I found Charlie a little too pompous and humourless to really warm to him. He was also a little too outspoken with his new friends much earlier than I found comfortable.

I also felt that the resolution to the mystery was unsatisfying. Although we learn after a fashion what happened, it is left as pure conjecture rather than having evidence to support the theory. There are also one or two rather unsatisfactory loose ends. I felt a little disappointed in A FALL FROM GRACE. It could have been much more than it was.

Sunnie Gill, Australia
May 2007

last updated 16/05/2007 20:23