The Confession by Jo Spain

The Blurb On The Back:

All of us have our secrets, don’t we?

Late one night, a man walks in the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie.  The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.  

Just an hour later the attacker has handed himself in to the police.  He doesn’t contend his guilt, but claims he doesn’t know his victim, that the attack was unplanned and committed in a fit of madness.  Was this just a random act of violence?  Or is it linked to one of Harry’s many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?

And of the three, Harry, Julie and the stranger – who is really the guilty one? 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s September 2012.  Disgraced banker Harry McNamara (former chairman of the defunct HM Capital, which had to be bailed out during the financial crisis to the tune of €20 billion) is sitting at home watching TV with his wife Julie when a stranger carrying a golf club walks in and launches an unprovoked, frenzied attack on him while Julie watches in frozen horror.  When he’s finished, she sees the attacker whisper something to Harry and then calmly leave.

An hour later, Station Sergeant Dean Gallagher and DS Alice Moody are surprised when a blood-spattered man calmly walks into their police station and announces that he’s murdered someone.  The suspect, John Paul “JP” Carney, says that he didn’t know McNamara and that he just flipped out and attacked him at random in a fit of madness but Moody and Gallagher are suspicious.  After all, McNamara has only recently been found not guilty of fraud and there were plenty of people who were financially ruined by him with a desire for revenge.

But for all her digging, Moody can’t find a link between attacker and victim.  Maybe this really was a random attack.  Or maybe the answer lies in Harry’s past – a past filled with hedonistic secrets, greed, ambition, betrayal and corruption – a past that only Julie really understands …

Jo Spain’s standalone thriller has a confident, twisting plot and makes good use of split narration to take in the heady rise and hedonistic depths of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economy and the impact of money, secrets and power on a couple’s relationship that – despite some soapy moments – kept me turning the pages until the end.

Spain makes great use of a mix of first person and third person narration in this book with JP and Julia each allowed to tell their own stories in their own voices while Alice’s investigation is followed in a brisk third person voice.  It was interesting that the pivotal character of Harry is only ever seen through other people’s eyes, giving him a little more depth and mystery (although much is made of his addiction to risk) and I particularly enjoyed the way Spain has Julia and JP recount their own backgrounds and the events that led them to that specific night with Julia’s relationship and marriage with Harry forming the backbone of the plot.  Julia’s hindsight regarding her marriage and how it informs her view of certain events is well handled, including her own refusal to tackle Harry on his lies and infidelities, and the consequential impact on her relationship with her family (although I think that more could have been made of Harry’s desire for a family and his own relationship with her relatives than what we get on the page).  JP also makes for an interesting antagonist, cunning, angry and manipulative but also the product of a dismal upbringing that’s left him damaged and vulnerable in his own way.

Alice is easy to root for as the detective – large in figure and dogged in determination, I enjoyed her persistence in chipping away at JP’s story and her relationship with the other police officers (notably Gallagher) and the fact that she brings some much needed humour at key times.  My only real complaint relates to a failure in her investigation to pick up a key fact – something that, despite some of the measures taken by JP, did not ring true as it was the type of thing that should have been relatively straightforward to uncover much earlier than it is.  That said, I would happily read another book with this character as her straight talking and instincts mean that there’s a lot of potential here that I’d enjoy reading more of.

The plot itself takes place at a brisk pace, given impetus by the alternating narration and I enjoyed the fact that you know who did it on the first page with the story focused entirely on the why.  There are some soapy elements to the book – most notably relating to rape accusations, which seem to serve more as a checklist for a character’s darker tendencies – and Harry’s business associate, Richard Hendricks, is a caricature who could have had a more rounded role than he does.  That said, having been previously familiar with Spain’s work through her INSPECTOR TOM REYNOLDS SERIES, I have to say that on the strength of those books and this one, I will definitely check out what she writes next.

THE CONFESSION was released in the United Kingdom on 25th January 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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