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The Fallen

by Robert Rennick

(Eyelevel Books, 273 pages, paperback, £6.99; June 2002.)

At the start of this engrossing mystery-cum-psychological thriller, a pretty young girl is found critically injured at the foot of a cover scancrumbling cliff on the Isle of Wight. There's the question of whether she fell or was pushed -- and in unravelling the answer author Robert Rennick provides more suspects and motives than a Cluedo.

As the unidentified girl lies in a coma at the local hospital, two dogged investigators grub through the evidence. One is brash and beautiful detective Emma Thomas, who blatantly uses her sexuality to aid her in her obsessive drive to the top. The other is newspaperman Benjamin Hogan, a hack with a great future behind him.

As you race through the pages of this book your finger will stab at clue after clue and suspect after suspect. Was it the local pervert, the fuddy-duddy sisters with their sinister secret, the slow-witted youth with his infantile terror of being seen walking the cliff edge, the greedy farmer with his own hidden agenda? And who's out to kill Hogan when he gets too close to the truth?

To find out, you must follow the two detectives -- the police professional and the journo amateur -- as they pull aside the lace curtains to uncover scandals lurking in the twee front parlours of the genteel Isle of Wight. And you must shadow Hogan as he digs for information among the orphans who live like rats in the sewers of Romania, and among the wealthy bosses of the equally stinking Eastern European sex trade.

Nothing is as it seems in this gripping psychological thriller of lust, greed, ambition, desperation and death. Suffice it to say that even the title is laden with ambiguity and hidden meaning. The characters populating this unputdownable book are so well drawn you can almost feel them creeping up behind you as you read. When you finish its final page, you're left wondering if you can ever trust anyone again.

Robert Rennick is a newcomer to the whodunnit scene, but The Fallen immediately places him among la crème de le crime. This is one reader who can't wait for his upcoming second book, billed at the back of The Fallen, The Ice Pick.

Review by Alexander James.

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