Quercus | 2018 (25 January) | 392p | Review copy | Buy the book
One evening, as Harry McNamara and his wife Julie sit in their home watching television, a man walks through the unlocked back door and horrifically beats Harry while Julie watches, shocked. The man – JP Carney – then goes straight to a police station and confesses to murder. But Carney says that he has no idea why he did it, that it was a mad impulse, that he didn’t even know his victim’s name. But Harry McNamara is a notorious man, an immensely wealthy banker who has just been taken through the courts for corruption and greed. It’s up to Sgt Alice Moody and her boss Station Sergeant Dean Gallagher to find out if this crime really is unconnected to the scandal that coats McNamara’s reputation in slime or if there’s another meaning behind Carney’s confession. And then there’s Julie McNamara. She says she saw Carney whisper in Harry’s ear as he lay beaten on the floor – but did she?
The Confession is one of the best whydunnits I’ve read. It has a hook to it that caught me instantly from the very first bloody chapter. From that point on we are thrown into the very different worlds of the McNamaras, of JP Carney and of Alice Moody. Each of them is irresistable. The McNamaras are quite a pair and we see their marriage through Julie’s eyes as she takes us back through their past together and what a past it is – gloriously wealthy, luxurious and scandalous. I really enjoyed Julie’s character. There are elements in her that we’ve seen in other psychological novels but Jo Spain pulls them all together brilliantly to create a believable breathing character.
My favourite character of them all, though, is Sgt Alice Moody. She might not get the most pages in the book but she and Gallagher certainly get the best lines. They are a great duo and I’d love to read a book with them again. Alice isn’t at all your typical police officer and I couldn’t get enough of her. That’s one of the things that I really enjoyed about The Confession – the mix of humours. This is at times a dark novel, especially when we spend time with Carney, but by no means all the time. And it’s all done with such confidence. Jo Spain has a deft touch.
The plot of The Confession is great and the structure, with the narrative moving between Julie, JP and Alice, adds extra urgency and helps the tension build. And it takes us all over the place as we slowly learn the truth. I had to know! I read this book in two sittings, the first took me so late into the night (and it was the night before my first day back at work after the holidays as well!).
Jo Spain writes as well as she plots and her characters are marvellous. Psychological thrillers need much more than twists to be worth the read, and in The Confession, Jo Spain shows us exactly how it should be done.