Brownley, James - 'The Sins of the Children'
This is the second book about Alison Glasby, first female crime correspondent for the Sunday Herald in London (the first was A PICTURE OF GUILT, published in 2007). The name of the author, 'James Brownley' is a pseudonym for a lawyer and head of business affairs for a Hollywood film company.
The book begins with a brief description of an accident involving schoolboys and a teacher on an outward-bound trip some years ago, in which the teacher dies. We are then introduced to Alison, who has just published a series of successful articles about police corruption, using inside information from an anonymous source. However, her most recent tip has led her into trouble. Publishing without proper corroboration of the facts has led to a potential lawsuit from the two police officers accused, and her anonymous source is refusing to reply to e-mails. Her relationship with another policeman has also run into trouble, and she is made to 'take time off.'
Almost straight away, she has a phone call from someone called Michael Fisher who tells her that he has important information about an apparent accident involving a teacher, 34 years ago, which resulted in the teacher's death, which he will divulge in return for money. Alison goes back into work, hoping to persuade her boss to take her back early so that she can pursue the story. Instead of the expected resistance, she is taken back straight away, but instead of getting the opportunity to work on her story, she has to help out on a different one that involves a game show host called "Senty Mayback" (would a game show host really have a name like this?!) and his drug-taking son. Although she manages to carry out some background research into the school accident on the side, Michael Fisher is murdered before she gets the chance to go back to talk to him and follow up on his story. His black notebook that supposedly has all the details in it has disappeared. Although Alison would really like to concentrate on Michael Fisher story, orders from the top make it clear that the story has to be dropped and instead, she has to work on features about commuting, researching cycle lanes, wet weather clothing etc. Of course, in true journalistic fashion, she carries on working on the Michael Fisher story in her spare time, while meeting all her other deadlines at work, and trying to get her private life back together. With many distractions, stops and starts, and false leads, she finally manages to piece together what might have happened all those years ago and who killed Michael Fisher and why. There is a tense ending when she confronts the killer and tries to get a confession, and Alison finally gets her story published as a Sunday Herald exclusive.
The book hangs mainly around Alison, but there is a diverse mix of additional characters involved, which are well drawn and each have a key part to play in the story. Although a little bit cliched, Alison's character is an interesting mix of a determined career-driven journalist with underlying insecurities. She really wants to be a crime journalist, but has to write about less exciting stuff to keep her job. She wants to make up with her boyfriend, but doesn't seem to be able to work out how to do it, until he does it for her. An anonymous telephone caller threatens her with violence if she writes more on Michael Fisher, and she is involved in a car chase in which her pursuers are killed. But she is determined to pursue her research into the murder of Michael Fisher. In fact, it is this mix of Alison's private life, her work and the various distractions that make this an interesting book to read. The diversions that slow Alison's progress work well and bring the story to life. Although there are threats and an occasional feeling of menace in the book, these never overwhelm the story, and overall it is a light and enjoyable read. The only criticism I would make is that the occasional pages from Michael Fisher's notebook interspersed between chapters could easily have been omitted without affecting the story. Alison is a great character and I look forward to seeing what she gets up to in the next book.
Michelle Peckham, England