Read 19 – 21 February 2012
My Rating 3.5 / 5
This book was reviewed for and on behalf of the Kindle Book Review
Hope Road is set in the Yorkshire town of Leeds and follows John Ray – son and brother of notorious criminals. John Ray has always been the good boy of the family, turning away from a life of crime. The author clearly knows Leeds well, and he describes the areas and locations excellently.
The book starts with the murder of a prostitute, and twists and turns until we find out who the girl actually is, and the complicated story of how she came to die. There are a number of different things going on in this book, that come together neatly at the end. There’s the car business, the Spanish receptionist with criminal skills, the peculiar hotel with no guests, the two Ukrainians, a counterfeiting operation and a dead girl.
Despite the complexities of the story, John Barlow does a great job of not confusing the reader, and leaving clues along the way as to the identity of the killer and it finishes well, leaving the reader satisfied with the outcome. The added intrigue is that as the son and brother of a notorious criminal family John Ray is dating a police officer; who happens to provide an alibi for the night the girl died.
So, why didn’t I rate this book more highly? I think, ultimately, I was disappointed with how the story ended. [Spoiler alert] I just didn’t believe that John Ray was part of the criminal underworld, his reasons for returning to this part of his life seemed weak, and if I’m truthful, I was disappointed. The other thing was his relationship with the police officer, Den. We know that she left another police officer to be with John Ray and we know what decision she makes at the end of the story in terms of what she learns about her boyfriend, but it all just felt a little unconvincing. There are points in the story where I would have liked to have dug down a little deeper into Den, to understand her motives and to understand her and the relationship she had with John Ray.
That said, I’ll be very interested to see how John Barlow develops his LS9 books; had the twist not happened with John Ray at the end, then I could have seen scope to use this character in the future, but I’m not sure which direction the books will turn to next. Wherever it focuses next, I’m sure it’ll be a good read.
You can follow John Barlow on twitter – @John_Barlow_LS9 or visit his website for more information.