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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Like False Money by Penny Grubb

Like False MoneyImage by stuartaken via Flickr

Some crime novels are intriguing puzzles begging for solution, some are sensitive character studies describing the relationship of investigator to crime and perpetrator, and some are fast-paced action stories packed with incident and threat. Penny Grubb, in Like False Money, has blended all three in one fascinating novel.

The heroine, Annie, a woman with balls, takes on her first cases with few expectations, learning she has been employed more as nursemaid than private investigator. The complex web of relationships surrounding the agency weave through the story, forming obstacles that Annie could do without as her investigations reveal convolutions she only suspects at first. Penny lays plenty of traps for her heroine and for the reader, feeding the fascination. Only at the denouement does all become clear, exactly as it should in such fiction. But this is no Poirot-like disposition. Annie has to work out the twists and turns and make sense of the misinformation, lies, half-truths and tricks as she wrestles to save her life.

The victims, witnesses, clients, agency staff and police contacts are all very real people. Some you would meet on the streets of the city of Hull every day, some in the villages and on the coast of rural East Yorkshire, some you would hope never to meet face to face. The locations are as much members of the cast as the people in this story of self discovery, murder, deception and misunderstanding.

Penny supplies the reader with facts, theories and puzzles, slowly revealing the plot with clues for those clever enough to spot them. But the solutions to the interwoven mysteries are unexpected and, in the case of the murder, breathtaking and ultimately inevitable. The novel starts with gentle intrigues, in-fighting and political games played by those with hidden motives, but develops into a cliff-hanger, almost literally.

Contrasting the urban environment with the rural, Penny explores motives, sub-texts and ambitions to show that location need not be the formative influence it is often considered. Here, it is the people and their personalities that direct cause and effect, acting out their parts sometimes in spite of their whereabouts. This novel surprises, entertains, scares and satisfies in equal measure and I heartily recommend it.  Penny's website

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