‘I think I might have killed her…’

These are not the words Frank Philips expect to hear when he attends his local AA meeting, but they are the words that will haunt him when he learns that a woman was murdered that night – and that the killer may now be targeting other members of that meeting…

The Blurb

When investigative reporter Jan Mason discovers that a young woman found strangled to death in her Chelsea flat is the daughter of a prominent politician, she knows she has a big story on her hands.

What she doesn’t know yet is that a mystery man has just told a stunned Alcoholics Anonymous meeting nearby that he might have killed his partner in a drunken blackout. And that Jan’s old flame, Frank Philips, the Metropolitan Police’s deputy head of counter terrorism and a recovering alcoholic himself, was in that meeting – bound by its code of confidentiality. Soon, a member of the same AA meeting will also be found dead, strangled with the same scarf.

Resourceful, well-connected and always one step ahead of the police, Jan is willing to put herself in harm’s way if it means catching a killer. And landing a front page exclusive.

The reality

Ridley quickly establishes a cast of possible murderers, and I enjoyed following the parallel police investigation and Jan’s own investigations. Most information is shared through dialogue so there’s not a lot of directly visible action, which is appropriate to the storyline, focusing as it does on shady politicians and alcoholics with dodgy memories!

For an investigative reporter, Jan seems remarkably naïve at times. How in the world a man who has literally just ‘swiped right’ on a dating app can offer to act as an unpaid chauffeur for a day without raising any alarm bells at all, I don’t know, but I was anticipating trouble! It also seemed obvious to me that a particular character could be the victim of an attempted set-up, but neither Jan nor the police seemed to consider this possibility. Perhaps I have been reading too much crime fiction!

Ian Ridley, author

I found Jan a slightly frustrating character altogether, (your mum is dying, Jan, pay attention!) but there were interesting insights into life in a newsroom and the constant pressure to remain at the forefront of ‘content’ provision.

Frank was a more sympathetic character for me, perhaps because he seemed genuinely conflicted about the best course of action, while Jan maintained a generic “don’t blame the messenger” defence against any potential unintended outcomes of her reporting. Also, while Ridley shows Frank experiencing a cathartic realisation, it seems very likely to me that Jan’s life will continue to be populated with contacts rather than friends – though I doubt she’ll notice.

Final thoughts

This is Ridley’s second book in this series. (He’s already got several books under his belt as a sportswriter.) The first, ‘Outer Circle’, features a case which sounds interesting and is referenced multiple times in ‘Don’t Talk’, but this does work as a standalone. That said, I am very tempted to read ‘Outer Circle’ and find out what happened in that case which has given Jan Mason the reputation which allows her to remain a roving Reporter At Large, hunting down News, instead of being trapped in the newsroom, reproducing ‘content’ from online sources. The investigations were what I really enjoyed reading about – interviewing suspects, taking risks and remembering to always, always interview the neighbours properly, especially those with long memories!

I enjoyed reading ‘Don’t Talk’ and seeing how the plotting developed. I was also pleased that a character I immediately assessed as dodgy turned out to be just as bad as I thought – albeit in a different way than I had anticipated!

I recommend this to fans of police procedurals and what I think of as “talk-y” crime stories – tales where everyone secretly wants the chance to tell their story, and everything is satisfactorily explained in full by the final pages.

’Don’t Talk’,
Ian Ridley,
2022, v books, paperback
Many thanks to the author, the publisher and Anne Cater for providing me with a complimentary copy of ‘Don’t Talk’ in exchange for an honest review and a place on the blog tour.

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