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Marks, Howard - 'Sympathy for the Devil'
Paperback: 544 pages (May 2011) Publisher: Vintage ISBN: 0099532736

Detective Sergeant Catrin Price has returned to Cardiff after twelve years working in police forces within the Home Counties. She left originally after the love of her life Rhys Williams, an undercover detective in the drug squad, leaves her for another woman and admits he's become an addict himself and is to leave the police in disgrace. Also around this time Owen Face lead singer of the glam rock band Seerland vanished after a concert and his abandoned car was found near the Severn Bridge, a notorious suicide spot.

Catrin is being shown around by DS Jack Thomas an arrogant colleague with whom she had a drunken embarrassing episode, one night in her past. Within a few hours of her return she and Thomas are called to a body floating in the river and it is Rhys. He has become a junkie and has been living rough down by the riverside. Although the police consider that his death is not suspicious, Catrin wants to believe Rhys was still trying to solve the mystery of Owen Fate. Although Rhys left her for Della Davies (then a police press officer) she feels she owes her life to him, as they met after she had been abducted and left wandering in a wood and Rhys found her and nursed her back to some normality. Her captors were never found and she cannot remember any details of her missing days.

Catrin joins with Della (now a successful press agent ) and Huw Powell a rich film maker (also ex-police and obsessed with Owen Face) to investigate. They believe the key is Angel Jones who was arrested by Rhys. He, however, is in jail for life for kidnapping girls and torturing them in his dungeon. Photos that came into Rhys's possession just before his death, show a young Owen Face and a ritual in a remote wood. However they soon realise that their investigations can lead to danger when buildings owned by Huw and Della are destroyed by fire. Can they stay alive and solve the mystery?

The author was a drug smuggler and dealer who was arrested and jailed in America . Released in 1995 he has written his autobiography Mr Nice as well as two other books on his former life. In 2010 a film was released of his life story. As you would expect drugs feature heavily in the book in some detail. He is very good at building on the atmosphere of menace as Catrin and Huw get closer to their quarry. Part of the book's mystique is a remote unmapped area of Wales (the country of Marks's birth) which is hard to accept in 2011. Catrin is a damaged woman given her past but has skills in unarmed combat and computer hacking though the latter skill is a bit unbelievable. Working independently from the police would she be able to access so many secure sites?

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, however, despite being over 500 pages, is an easy if uncomfortable read, as it deals with many different types of drugs and their manufacture as well as sado-masochism and paganism. According to the publisher's blurb this is the first book in a series by the author, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses from a credible beginning.

Geoff Jones, England
May 2011

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 15/05/2011 11:01