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Lennon, Patrick - 'Steel Witches'
Hardback: 304 pages (Mar. 2008) Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd ISBN: 0340898399

Tom Fletcher is a former policeman turned private eye, based in Cambridge. In this intricately woven tale he finds himself involved in a case that is disturbingly linked to his own, troubled, family history. After receiving a chilling phone call from his father - his first contact in 18 years - that tells him they need to kill someone, he is drawn to an old quarry with a body at the bottom. Worried about his father's involvement in this, he starts to investigate and is even more troubled to discover a photograph of himself as a young child hidden among the possessions of a second victim. Digging deeper reveals that his long-vanished mother could also be somehow involved and in great danger.

With the Cambridge police ordering him to stay out of the way, an American arms company acting pretty cagily, conspiracy theories running rife and the lure of finding an explanation for his mother's sudden disappearance, Tom is hooked and unable to leave things alone. He gets closer and closer to discovering the truth but the killer is now on his tail as well.

The story is set in the winter and the weather is awful most of the time. At the start of the book it is bitterly cold and there are ice crystals everywhere. Then, as the tension increases, so does the amount of precipitation and the thrilling climax of the story is set amidst a terrifyingly violent storm. This ‘Hardy-esque' link between atmospheric conditions and the progression of the story brilliantly enhances the tension in the book as it races towards its end.

Patrick Lennon has crafted a very fine piece of work in STEEL WITCHES. Not only is the central storyline well-written and gripping, it is cleverly intertwined with a separate account of old English witch trials. This second tale is presented in a different font, to make it look as if it has been recorded with an old typewriter. The story is narrated by Evie, one of two sisters living together in an old house next to an American airbase during WWII. It is central to Tom's investigation and his mother's disappearance, but it takes him a while to work things out. The reader ends up in a rather emotional state, wanting to somehow tell Tom where to go to find the answers, and all the while juggling with guessing the significance of Evie's account; piecing things together in two stories instead of one; and becoming increasingly agitated as the book enticingly drip-feeds small, tasty morsels of the second tale before suddenly switching back to its main focus. The ending is also excellent and has the added bonus of a delightfully unexpected twist.

STEEL WITCHES is an extremely enjoyable book. It is a fairly easy read, is very cleverly written and is an ideal book to lose oneself in.

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
May 2008

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 11/05/2008 12:55