I’m dedicating the month of August to ‘crime fiction catch-up’, in other words I intend to read all the books that I have failed to get around to since the beginning of the year. There will be no new purchases! I’m particularly keen to read the books given to me by friends and writers which I’ve blithely promised to read and then left languishing on my shelves. Bone and Cane is one such book which was given to me by Maxine at Petrona. My resolve to read this book was strengthened when I met the author, David Belbin, at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and I learnt that the second book in the series, What You Don’t Know, had been published in May. Clearly I have some catching up to do.
Bone and Cane is set in the run-up to the 1997 General Election which the Tories are predicted to lose. There is a buzz in the air at Westminster although Nottingham MP Sarah Bone expects to lose her Labour seat which she won marginally in a recent by-election. However she is celebrating her part in securing the release of Ed Clark who was convicted for the murder of policeman Terry Shanks and his wife Liv. Terry Shanks was one of the policemen who helped convict Ed Clark but there was scant forensic evidence and the conviction was overturned at appeal.
After the his ‘release’ party, Ed tries to assault Sarah Bone and boasts that he did in fact commit the two murders. Sarah is appalled by the confession, not least because the murdered man’s sister Polly resents Sarah’s interference in the case and insists that he is guilty. However it is the run-up to the General Election and Sarah has to concentrate on campaigning to retain her seat. In Nottingham, she runs into her ex lover Nick Cane, a former teacher turned cannabis grower and supplier who has just been released from prison. Through his moonlighting job as a taxi driver he has met Ed Clarke and also feels uneasy about the man’s release. Together, Sarah and Nick try to investigate the events that led up to the double murder.
I found this book to be a well-written crime novel with an interesting take on national and regional politics. Only a small portion of the narrative is set in London but I thought the writer captured well the stresses of Westminster and the anxieties of a new MP. The parts set in Nottingham infused the book with the mechanics of regional politics – campaign headquarters set in housing estates, MPs surgeries where the angry and desperate turn up for help. Sarah Bone is a realistic character as an MP with a background in student politics and a brief stint in the police. I found her a slightly cold character which was probably deliberate as she is clearly an ambitious person. Nick Cane, her former boyfriend was also well portrayed as someone who had fallen spectacularly from position of responsibility and was now on the fringes of society. I found is reluctance or perhaps inability to completely rehabilitate to be slightly depressing but again this is probably deliberate.
The idea of a convict who may have been mistakenly released was a good idea for the book and I liked the story. In keeping with the realism of the writing there are no easy solutions at the end for any of the characters. I’m interested to see how the Bone/Cane partnership continues as the book had the rounded feel of a one-off and their future together does seem doomed. I’ll definitely be reading book two.
The author’s website is here.