.....this is a cracking good story.
I had read Simon Hall's previous two novels, The Death Pictures and Evil Valley, both of which I enjoyed very much and which feature Chief Inspector Adam Breen and his crime fighting TV reporter friend Dan Groves, and this third title is, in my opinion, his best yet.
All of Simon Hall's books are tightly plotted, intricate, keep you guessing and all of them so far have contained the solving of a code or puzzle in order to track down the guilty protagonist. I would hazard a guess that Simon likes doing crosswords and cryptic puzzles and this particular aspect of his work reminds me very much of Reginald Hill's Daziel and Pascoe title, Death Jest Book, in which there are clues and word puzzles to solve and which I found equally intriguing.
The Judgement Book is full of guilty secrets of the great and the good and the anonymous owner of this record of human frailties is determined that hypocrites and liars should be shown up for what they are. So, first victim is an MP, a family man very strong on the sanctity of home life, who has spent time with a school girl-uniformed prostitute wielding a whip, and when threatened with exposure he kills himself. Soon others are drawn into the net, two members of the police force, both high ranking, are then threatened with exposure and one commits suicide by throwing themself off a cliff and it all begins to get rather fraught.
Throughout all this Dan and Adam are helping each other out with the investigation with Dan trying to solve the puzzle and at the same time appease his publicity hungry boss at the TV station with his inside knowledge of the case, and also trying to deal with the fact that his police detective girl friend Claire, who he met on an earlier case, is pregnant and neither of them knowing how to cope with this commitment.
The tension builds nicely and the denouement took me totally by surprise as they found out the guilty person and try to track down the hiding place of the Judgement Book. Both Adam and Dan have bent the rules in tracking down criminals in the past and while they both believe what they did was for the greater good, neither of them would emerge with their jobs and careers intact if this came out, so it is with horror that they learn that their names are also in The Judgement Book and, therefore, they have a vested interest in tracking it down....
I will say no more as I do not wish to give anything away which might spoil the story, but I thought this was a brilliant crime/detection novel. The characters are now more rounded out, we are getting to know the background to their private lives and are privy to their feelings, the relationship between Adan and Dan is spot on and the whole thing crackles with tension and pace and I thought this was simply great stuff and the ending is left open and ambiguous so that we know there is more to come.
I look forward to it......