Hall, Simon - 'The Judgement Book'
This is a tale of sin and blackmail. It stems from a simple diary and spirals into the lives of reporter Dan Groves and detective Adam Breen, in a way which they do not expect.
An MP, heavily supportive of family values and tight morals, dies by his own hand, driven to take this step by a blackmailer who has evidence of his hypocrisy. He dies to save his family from the revelations that he spent the night with a young high class call girl, not much older than his own daughter. This information is to be revealed as part of a series of damning exposÚs from the 'Judgement Book'.
Several others receive threats that parts of their lives that they would prefer to keep silent about will be made public. There appears to be no motive to blackmail for money, just the satisfaction of revealing the truth. The blackmail notes, however, indicate that they contain clues which, if solved by a deadline, will uncover the hiding place of the diary and allow the Judgement Book to be silenced.
Once again Dan Groves, with his abilities in riddle solving, is brought in to help the police and support Adam in dealing with the media fallout which this case brings. As they work together it becomes evident that they too are in the Judgement Book and their careers could be on the line if they do not find it. They have both in their ways bent rules to get results and knowing that they now feature in the diary, heightens the threat and makes the solution more urgent and personal.
This is once again a really enjoyable read from Simon Hall. Having read the previous two books (THE DEATH PICTURES and EVIL VALLEY) featuring these characters I was expecting a good puzzle and mystery with some lighter moments. This story featured less of the puzzle elements and was darker than the previous books, especially in dealing with the interpersonal relationships between Dan, his police girlfriend Claire and Adam. I am often disappointed by second and third books in a series, Simon Hall however has not fallen into the trap of offering just more of the same. The characters are well rounded and have been developed to become "real" with all the flaws and fears that this entails.
This is taut, well plotted and creates such a pace it became a personal race against time to finish it in one sitting. For me this is the best one yet and I look forward to the next.
Amanda Brown, England