British Politics is going through something of a purple patch, or to put it more succinctly, a blue purple patch. Where it was once set out as the standard by which others should follow, now British politics is shedding credibility, thanks mainly to the Conservative led government. Who are on their third Prime Minister in a year!! Other parts of the British establishment, which have often been seen as standard bearers, are the Fourth Estate. They too are going through a massive upheaval, what with the arrival of digital and social media, and finally the law, more specifically the police. They too have been struggling to retain the trust of the population they protect, with several scandals involving serving police officers, in the past couple of months. But what hasn’t changed and is always welcome, is the arrival of a great murder mystery involving all three of the above. A crime story with both the police and media as the main characters is standard fare. But throw into the mix a whiff of politics and you have the potential for a great read, and that’s where we are with this month’s third book review. It’s, Don’t Talk by Ian Ridley and published by V-Books ( www.v-Books.co.uk ) on November 8th.
When investigative reporter Jan mason discovers that a young woman found murdered in Chelsea, is the daughter of a prominent politician, she knows she has a big story on her hands. What Jan doesn’t realise is that a mystery man has just told a stunned AA meeting nearby, that he might have killed someone in a drunken blackout. Even more convenient, is that in attendance was Jan’s old flame, Frank Philips. One of Met’s most senior Counter Terrorism officers and a recovering Alcoholic. Bound by a code of confidentiality, when another attendee at the meeting is subsequently murdered, frank is torn between his duty to the job and the oath all AA members swear by, which reminds members, ‘…When You Leave Here, Let It Stay Here’. Then, when an up-and-coming member of the Labour party is murdered, and Frank is attacked by an unknown assailant too. Jan decides to put her life on the line to help Frank and stay one step ahead of the police. Can she catch the killer and land the front page exclusive…
Wow, what a discovery. I’ve read some great crime stories in my time, but every now and then along comes a standout, true to life character like Jan Mason. A middle-aged woman, trying to keep her head and career above the waterline, while solving serious crime in the process. If Jessica Fletcher had been a journalist, she’d have been something like Jan. Another strong female lead that came to mind was Helen Mirren’s portrayal of DCI jane Tennison in the TV series Prime Suspect. Both characters, albeit working on different sides of the beat, are battling ageism and sexism in their respective fields.
They say there is a lack of strong leading roles for middle aged actresses, the same can be said for the literary characters too and this is where Ridley delivers, with a robust and sassy journalist who lives her life at one speed, very fast. I at times had to take break to catch my breath, when reading about this woman who is fuelled by coffee and can write 700 words on her laptop, while barrelling up the Motorway in the passenger seat of a Bentley. I’m writing this review before flying to Scotland tonight, while trying to juggle my day job, pack a bag, and mind the cats (not that they need that much, although the youngest Edison is a little bit needy)and I feel overwhelmed. Not our Jan.
All the characters in this book are solid as rocks and leave such an impression, you can almost smell the caffeine, sweat, tears and everyday angst which they are dealing with. The subjects dealt with in this book are also very real and may leave their mark on some readers. Especially those with or whose family or friends are dealing with alcoholism. One poignant thread in the story, follows how Jan juggles with her ill mother, who is slowly slipping away in a nursing home up in the north of England. This would be quite jarring for my wife and fellow librarian, Georgina. Whose own dad is receiving palliative care in a nursing home in Nottingham, while we are in Ireland. She, like Jan, can’t be there always, and emotionally it’s tough for both. Ridley’s portrayal of this and the AA scene is what helps to make this book and its characters even more believable.
This is English author and journalist Ian Ridley’s (@ianridley1) fifteenth book and his second in the Jan Mason Series, the first one was The Outer Circle (2018) but republished in 2022 as Outer Circle. His most recent book Breathe of Sadness; On Love, Grief and Cricket, is an account of how he coped with the death of his wife, sports journalist Vikki Orvice. He’s the author of 12 previous sports books, including No.1 bestseller Addicted (1998) with former English footballer Tony Adams. The follow up book Sober was published in 2017. In a career spanning over 40 years, Ian has written for The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday newspapers. He’s also written for TV, including several episodes of the Sky One drama Dream Team.
Being able to have readers hang on your every word, is the sign of a true master storyteller, and a seasoned sports journalist, who must recreate the frenetic pace of a sporting fixture in print, is someone ideally suited to writing crime fiction. This is proven by Ridley’s well-crafted and deftly written story, and I for one will set out to get a copy of Outer Circle, while also awaiting his next instalment in the Jan Mason series.
So, if you are looking for an edge of your seat, murder mystery series, with a strong and gritty leading lady. Then head down to your local bookshop or order a copy online and curl up with one of London’s leading hacks and buckle up for an engrossing read.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This book is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of it, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.