Brownley, James - 'A Picture of Guilt'
Alison Glasby is a journalist. She is 25 years old, tall, slim, with a degree in English, a postgraduate degree in journalism and she has recently started working at the Sunday Herald. She lives alone in her own flat, in which the boiler malfunctions, and the fridge is perpetually empty. At the start of the book, she is given the chance to work with veteran journalist, Bill Davenport, who is on the point of retiring. A convicted murderess, Leonie Dellar is about to die in prison, and they plan to run an article about the murders in the paper. Leonie Dellar and her accomplice Brian Jarmy, who is locked up in Broadmoor, killed four children in Norfolk in the late 60s. Although they didn't confess to the crime when caught, Leonie did confess later from her prison cell to Bill, who was following up on the crimes. Bill eventually wrote a book about the murders called 'Children Carried Away'. This book made Bill's name, and he is renowned for being an expert on the crimes and the killers.
Alison seizes on the chance to work with Bill, as she is smart, ambitious and wants to be a crime reporter, not just an ordinary features journalist. She goes to the press conference at the prison where Leonie has just died, and manages to sweet talk one of the guards into letting her see Leonie's possessions. She is astonished to discover a photograph of one of the four murdered children, Donna Bacon, with her older sister Lynette, which had been sewn into an embroidered cushion and kept hidden. Using her mobile phone camera to take a copy, when she shows it to Bill, he is just as surprised as he's never seen the picture before. When she goes to Norfolk to interview Donna's mother and Lynette, they claim not to have seen it before either and become very upset.
Alison determines to solve the mystery, partly through her own curiosity, but partly through her own drive and ambition to show that she is a determined, dedicated and talented journalist. Bill has amassed boxes and boxes of notes from the cases that he used as source material for his book and articles, which Alison is allowed to read, under supervision. Bill doesn't seem too interested, and is busy going to retirement dos. Is he really as uninterested as he appears?
This is a promising first book featuring Alison Glasby. She is a strong yet complex character and her determination to discover the truth about the photograph while trying to learn the ropes as a journalist is appealing. On the one hand she wants to find out the truth, but on the other is worried about being seen as the typical intrusive journalist. The mystery itself is reasonably skilfully revealed and there is a tense climax to the book. I could quibble that the story itself didn't need to have such an obvious basis on the 'Moors Murderers', as it would have worked with any pair of killers, who happened to have killed children, and the obvious link to Hindley and Brady was distracting. There were also a few questions one could ask about the motivations of one or two of the characters in the book. However, if you are willing to go along for the ride, then this is an entertaining one.
James Brownley is pseudonym for a lawyer and head of business affairs for a major Hollywood film company. Although he's got a little way to go until he can give up his day job, the signs are promising.
Michelle Peckham, England