Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.
Author: D. B. Martin
Publisher: IM Books, 2014
“Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you can trust anyone.”
“Psychological thriller fiction” is the assigned genre of the PATCHWORK project. Last October I reviewed PATCHWORK MAN (“D.B. Martin is not afraid to bring her readers to unpleasant realities, distasteful characters, and to moral questions that have no simple or, perhaps, any permanent solutions.”) Then, after PATCHWORK PEOPLE, feeling things were muddled, I simply conceded, “Anyone who knows London will enjoy Debrah Martin’s details in describing familiar places in original ways.” I also conceded its thrills: “Lots of intriguing clues are left around the house or delivered by intruders who seem to have slithered through the keyhole.” Now, with PATCHWORK PIECES, I get it.
Martin’s metaphor is apt as she applies it to the increasingly secular era we live in. Many of us who still adhere to the values instilled by the church will be disturbed by the composition of the family she has created and decomposition of their morals. At the same time, tracing the alterations of Lawrence Juste, a respected London barrister, from his impoverished childhood as 9-year-old Kenny Juss into mid-life, Martin reveals a great tragedy in the alterations to Britain’s economy and priorities.
It is difficult to review the third in a set that has a single plot as complex as this one. It will make a great TV series if anyone can do it, something like BBC’s “Broadchurch” (“Gracepoint” in the United States). I would follow an extended story; there are characters I’d like to know better, especially Mary, the sister living in an asylum who hides messages in origami birds. And what about Binnie? Is she really dead?
Debrah Martin herself is complex. She also does literary fiction and (as Lily Stuart) detective novels for young adults. She explains on her Facebook page what they have in common: “I write stories on the edge – be it the edge of fear, edge of love, edge of madness or the edge of transformation. Let me take you over the edge.” Here her style of writing is perfect pitch straightforward, thank goodness. Her major characters are delightfully (or frightfully) distinct. The only problem is that some of them have two names and/or two identities, including the unraveling narrator, who is brought to his knees by some incredible scheming. He is a schemer, too, but only to survive and to protect the innocent.
I admire Martin for her skills and also the moral sensibility that comes through even as she is teasing her readers. That said, I must admit I’m not the best kind of reader for her work. She is brilliant, to be sure, and I am no dummy, but I think a Times crossword puzzle addict would stick with it in more delight. I am currently forcing myself through WOLF HALL, for which I am grateful for the genealogical chart. I wish this book had been produced with a sociogram – but it would give away too many secrets.
I don’t want to discourage you. Start with the 64-second trailer for PATCHWORK MAN on Martin’s website http://www.debrahmartin.co.uk/thriller-fiction/). That will inspire you to read the books and in order. You may struggle, but will be rewarded with many surprises and memorable lines ranging from pictorial to wise. From PATCHWORK PIECES:
“[The detective’s] lips pursed whimsically and the duck pout became a trout pout.”
“It’s a skill, differentiating between a lie and a truth. They can be made to sound the same but they’re not. The lie is practised – crafted, complete – and perfect every time. The truth can be the slightest bit different each time it’s told, depending on who is telling it – but still be the truth.”