best revenge


Stephen White

TimeWarner, £9.99 Rel May 2003

Reviewed by L. J. Hurst

There's a problem with death sentences. Sometimes they are never carried out. A man could be released ... eventually. Tom Clone, after thirteen years inside, is a man released. Released from the sentence, imposed after a conviction he has never accepted, released from a sentence that should never have been imposed because he never murdered his ex-girlfriend. Tom, though, is going to find that he has problems.

The police who jailed him think that he was guilty. His grandfather, who takes him in, thinks he has problems to come to terms with and makes him see a psychologist. That's the grandfather whose house will be invaded, and the grandfather who is going to be beaten comatose. The grandfather whose condition cannot be explained because Tom disappears.

Alan Gregory with his office in Bolder, Colorado is the psychologist to whom Tom is referred. FBI agent Kelda James, who is in counselling herself, has given Tom the name of her counsellor - it was not a good move. Agent James, who found the evidence suggesting Tom Clone's innocence, has problems - her body is letting her down, and the friend on whom she relies is not always around. Soon after she has driven Tom away from the gates of the penitentiary, Kelda has had to draw her weapon to keep the police officers away from Tom. She is not able to protect Tom's grandfather, and she is not there when Tom wakes in a cage in the woods to be tortured by a masked man. Fortunately for Agent James, even though he has broken his arm and is unable to drive his new BMW Mini, Alan Gregory does try to be there. Dr Gregory can understand the pains in the life of Kelda James, and he can understand why our bodies fail us and how we hurt ourselves. Worse for Kelda James, he shows us how the hurts of other people hurt us too, whether they intended to or not. An old girl friend alone on a Pacific island has, wittingly or not, caused so much pain later.

That, though, is only half the story - why one cop in the woods should shoot another as they try to save their prisoner supplies another strand. Stephen White, like his protagonist Alan Gregory, is a psychologist - I hope his clear up rate is rather better, though.

Having read Karin Slaughter's Kiss Cut recently, I made an interesting comparison - Alan Gregory and his circle are vaguely liberal; on the other side of the country, doctor or otherwise, there was no one not to the right of Genghis Khan. It was nice to know that abnormal psychology does not make us all conservatives.