Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Waites and Measures

While we wait for Martyn Waites' Mary's Prayer to appear next month, here's what I said about his gripping The Mercy Seat, just out in paperback.

Waites, one of Britain’s hottest young crime novelists, writes about the rusted industrial city of Newcastle. The Mercy Seat, his first book to be published in America, is a welcome treat: a story with familiar ingredients which also manages to cover some fresh ground.

Journalist Joe Donovan’s life disintegrated two years ago, when his six-year-old son disappeared in a crowded department store: his marriage and his high profile career were victims of the still unsolved disappearance. When Donovan’s name turns up on an audio disc for which a man died, his former newspaper sends its top editor and a shrewd lawyer somewhat short on scruples to help them find out why another reporter has vanished – promising in return to help Joe in his obsessive search for his son.

Bloody violence explodes on virtually every page (the mercy seat of the title is an especially vicious instrument of torture) and there are some really scary villains. But the feeling which readers are likely to take away from the book is the unstoppable power of decent feelings which Donovan manages to retain – especially for a lost street boy named Jamal.