The Confession, by Jo Spain

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jo Spain, and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

This is my first venture into the writing of Jo Spain and it will surely not be my last! Spain offers a well-developed novel that mixes the thrill of a mystery with the intrigue of a multi-voiced narrative that seeks to explore an act of extreme violence. While Harry and Julie McNamara are watching television one evening, someone discretely makes their way inside and repeatedly strikes Harry across the head with a golf club. A panicked call to the authorities after the attacker has fled finds Mr. McNamara taken to the hospital, clinging to life. Detective Sergeant Alice Moody takes the lead on the case, trying to ascertain who might have wanted to attack McNamara, a rich Irish banker. With Harry clinging to life in a coma, the reader discovers one John Paul “JP” Carney has been arrested in conjunction with the attack, though he seems not to remember the event, or have any reason to have approached the McNamara manse. The story offers a present-time narrative through the eyes of DS Moody, who is trying to build a case and discover a motive that Carney may have had. Julie McNamara and JP Carney offer up their own perspectives, both as backstories and with flashes of present-day, as it relates to the larger McNamara crime. Was the attack on Harry McNamara completely random? How might JP have ever run in the same circles as a powerful banker? Why has Julie been so hands-off since a suspect was detained? All this and more fills the reader’s mind as they push through this novel. Spain leaves the reader wondering until the very end as they, like DS Moody, slowly peel back the proverbial onion to see the core of the crime. Perfect for those who like mysteries that slowly develop and then come together with a BANG!

This being my first venture into the world of Jo Spain, I was not sure what to expect. It would seem that she has quite the following, with an established novel series already, but I cannot help but feel that this standalone novel could convince many to take a gamble on more of her work. Spain does a masterful job of using her characters to propel the story forward, in that interesting ‘multiple perspective’ narrative. This allows the reader to develop a closeness with Julia McNamara, JP Carney, and DS Alice Moody independently and as a larger whole. There is much backstory, as mentioned above, for the latter two characters, while Moody seeks to keep her chapters in the present and focussed on the case. The reader can feel more of a closeness to Julia and JP, thereby helping them to have a better idea as to the foundation of the attack that saw Harry McNamara injured so grievously. Taking the time to develop these characters in short order fuels the momentum of the story and enriches the narrative for the curious reader. The story proves to be quick paced and is a mystery that has little downtime as the authorities race against the clock to gather needed evidence. How could an attack on a wealthy gentleman who has no ties to the attacker have played out? What role, if any, did the wife have to the man who came in wielding a golf club? Who was Harry McNamara, away from the headlines he generated because of his profession? All this and more enters the fray in a narrative that flows through short chapters jammed with information. The dedicated reader will surely polish this off quickly, but be left with a wonderful residue as it all comes together, demanding more of Spain’s work in short order.

Kudos, Madam Spain, for a wonderful piece. While it was my first of your novels, it will surely not be the last!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: