Thursday, March 7, 2013

Yesterday's Papers - Martin Edwards

I've read two of Martin Edwards's books featuring Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin over the past couple of weeks. I Remember You & Yesterday's Papers. 

I Remember You is a story of murder & deception with its roots in Northern Ireland. Finbar Rogan, one of Harry's clients, is having a run of bad luck. His tattooing business is burnt down, he thinks he's being followed & a bomb is found strapped to the bottom of his car. Finbar has plenty of enemies from his ex-wife to various disgruntled husbands & boyfriends whose women he's seduced. The story also involves a local radio station that features local personalities on the morning show to discuss the news & play a few favourite songs - on one memorable occasion, Harry is featured. The story is fast paced &, as always, well-plotted. Harry is an immensely sympathetic character, still mourning the death of his wife, Liz, two years before & not ready to move on emotionally from her loss. He's never going to be highly paid but he's honest, compassionate & always does his best for his clients, even if that means getting too involved in their affairs & doing a little investigation on the side.

Yesterday's Papers begins as Harry meets Ernest Miller, an elderly man who has been researching a famous murder case of the 1960s. Carole Jeffries, a beautiful 16 year old girl was found dead in Sefton Park near her home, strangled with her own scarf. Edwin Smith was convicted of Carole's murder but before he could be executed, he committed suicide in prison. Now, all these years later, Miller is convinced that Edwin Smith was innocent. He was an inadequate young man who fancied Carole but had never had a chance with her. He was an easy & obvious suspect & Miller thinks the police didn't look any further once they discovered that Smith knew some details of the murder scene that only the killer could know.

Miller wants to look at the legal files of the case & Harry's firm has just bought the practice of Smith's solicitor, Cyril Tweats. Tweats was an incompetent lawyer but amazingly stayed in business until retirement. Harry is intrigued & agrees to look through Tweats's notes on the case. Against his will, he becomes involved, even though he finds Miller's interest in the case a little distasteful. Carole's murder had a devastating effect on her family. Her father, a prominent political writer & lecturer, was crushed by his daughter's death & began drinking which destroyed his career. Several other men, including Carole's pop star boyfriend, her employer, Benny Frederick & Clive Doxey, a family friend but now a prominent justice campaigner, could all be in the frame if Edwin Smith was innocent.

Harry becomes increasingly intrigued by the case &, after Ernest Miller's death from a fall during an asthma attack, he discovers the source of Miller's information about the case & begins to wonder if his death was a little too convenient for one of the men he now suspects may have been the real killer of Carole Jeffries.

This is the most complex of the Devlin books so far. Martin Edwards wrote a post about the book on his blog just a couple of weeks ago & he says that it was a new departure for him. It's a story with several strands & more than one murder to be solved & not all of the murders are in the past. The atmosphere of 1960s Liverpool, home to the Beatles & the Mersey sound, is beautifully described & Edwards obviously has a great nostalgia for the period & its music.

Luckily I still have three more Harry Devlin books to read & I'm so pleased that the digital revolution has lead to the series now being available as ebooks. I'm also lucky enough to have a pre-publication copy of Martin's latest book in the Lake District series, The Frozen Shroud, courtesy of NetGalley & I can't wait to read that.

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