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Napier, Will - 'Without Warning'
Paperback: 448 pages (Feb. 2010) Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd ISBN: 0224073567

Will Napier has lived in both Scotland and the USA. This book, set and written in the United States, qualifies for inclusion on Euro Crime due to its funding from the Scottish Arts Council and the residential whereabouts of its author.

WITHOUT WARNING is dark and disturbing. The whole story comes about because Carole, Joe Pullman's wife, starts asking probing questions about his troubled childhood. With good reason, he doesn't want to talk about his past, so she goes off digging for answers - and sets off a chain of events that can only end in disaster.

Carole goes missing suddenly and Joe gets accused of killing her but, at the same time, there are strange sightings of her in the town. Joe's father-in-law doesn't like him and takes this opportunity to cause trouble. This results in Joe being arrested and roughed up a little by the police. Meanwhile, a severed hand in a glove is found by someone's dog. But it isn't Carole's. Where is she? Accusations and gossip are rife and Joe's past starts leaking into the present.

His father, a rather violent man who is serving a life sentence for murder, seems to be accusing him of one of his own murders. This is where things get really interesting. Joe has clearly suffered abuse at the hands of his father and has the scars to prove it. It isn't quite clear, though, who really is guilty of Dean's murder. Joe or his father? His wife seems to believe that he (Joe) is the culprit but Joe doesn't give away any clues and even the reader is left wondering. What is clear, though, is that there won't be a happy ending to the story. Joe struggles with his ghosts, struggles to bring up his son and struggles with the gossips in the small American town that he lives in.

Joe is a likeable character and you easily empathise with him, despite not knowing the full truth about his past or why his wife is determined to believe his father rather than him. He is a heavy drinker but also the well-respected town mortician with a seat on the council. You wonder how things will turn out and, indeed, how things could ever be normal for this family again.

Well-written and compelling, dark and gruesome, but at times rather slow, this book is fabulous and should be popular with fans of Iain Banks' THE WASP FACTORY. It is engrossing and consuming and ties things up neatly at the end, with no real twists or surprises. If you love gruesome books with gruesome endings then this is the book for you!

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
February 2010

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

last updated 14/02/2010 15:40