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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Book Review: The Loyal Servant by Eva Hudson

Caroline Barber is a civil servant juggling work and family, a little unsuccessfully. Things get worse when she finds her boss, a senior politician, dead at his desk. The evidence all points to suicide but Caroline has her suspicions. Her covert investigations bring her into contact with newspaper report Angela Tate, herself fighting against the spectre of redundancy at her paper. She needs a good story and she thinks she's found one with the political cover up that seems to be going on around academy building projects. However, there are forces at work which neither expect and which threaten Caroline's family and life.

This is a very well-structured novel. The plot is good and the gradual revelation of all the various secrets was enough to keep me interested. However, I had some personal gripes reading it which, to be fair, are probably more about me than the novel itself. 

I didn't feel that the characters - with the exception of the wonderful Angela - were well-rounded enough. With Caroline, especially, her quest is explained but the forces which govern her family life are left until much later in the novel. I understand why this is from a plot point of view, but it left me struggling to connect with her for a while. She's certainly an 'everywoman' kind of character but I wanted a little more than that a little earlier. Similarly, a convention of chapter endings in books like these seemed to get on my nerves - there was very little respite with dialogue ending nearly every chapter and rushing you on into the next. I wanted more introspection, more thought that was not overtly connected to the main plot but, again, that was probably just me. 

I did enjoy this book, more than the criticisms above suggest. I rushed through it because I was eager to get to the root of the mystery and I found myself inwardly cheering every time Angela Tate crossed the page. The little investigative double-act which emerges out of the initially difficult relationship she and Caroline have is an enjoyable one; for me, that was easily the best relationship in the novel. 

Worth a read if you're more into these kinds of books than I am but also if you like your journalists bitchy and forthright - Angela Tate is fabulous. 

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