Top critical review
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A wide scope that stretches credibility
on 4 August 2013
A convent is burned down in central London and the ten nuns who live there are burned to death. An eleventh body is found in a priest hole and the fire looks like arson. DI Carrigan and DS Miller investigate who the eleventh victim was and why the convent should have been burnt down. The eleventh victim is Emily, a wild child political activist and most unlikely ally of nuns. She seems to be the key to the mystery. The convent is unconventional. The nuns’ good works include challenging the local drugs barons to get drugs off the streets, and sheltering child prostitutes who they free from the bondage of their Albanian masters. This could explain Emily’s interest, and it could also explain the reason for the attack.
The plot is certainly complex and there are many twists and turns. There is an international flavour with insights into Albanian crime and Peruvian politics, but this complexity is self-defeating. The nuns financing a compound in Peru to the tune of £250k a year, as well as saving prostitutes and junkies and at the same time incurring the wrath of the Catholic church (they are about to be excommunicated) is all a bit much. There’s the violence, too. We don’t quite get the autopsy scene, but near enough to be both clichéd and verging on the pornographic. The principal characters are well drawn and their relationship is suitably ambiguous, though the thread of Miller’s failed marriage is lost in the morass. There’s an overuse of simile and an equally irritating reliance on end of chapter cliff-hangers, and as for the final scene, well ….. But it is a page-turner so worth a look for those who enjoy the genre.