This intriguing book opens in Bristol, England, in 1965. The city is shivering in the grip of winter weather that makes it seem particularly alien to its West Indian community. Joseph Tremaine (or "JT") Ellington is a man with a past. There was a time when he was a Barbadian policeman: but he left the force, or had to leave the force, and took a boat to England after professional meltdown and personal tragedy. JT is having trouble holding down a regular job in the face of widespread racial prejudice, and now the landlord of his seedy digs is about to evict him for non-payment of rent.
And then he is approached in a pub by local businessman and politician Earl Linney, a leading light in Bristol's West Indian community, to track down a young deaf and dumb girl who has gone missing without a trace. The proposal offers a way for JT to make ends meet and pay his rent, but he knows that something isn't right about it. And the more he asks questions, the more it becomes clear just how wrong it all is. Someone out there really doesn't appreciate JT's interest in the missing girl. He is beaten up, then people he talks to about her begin to turn up dead. The harder he looks, the more he is brought face to face with the reality of evil in high places, and police corruption: exactly the combination he tried and failed to stand up to in Barbados.
Just when you think that every possible spin on the detective novel has been done, someone comes up with a new one. M.P. Wright is to be congratulated on producing a central character and a setting that are very different to anything we've seen before: and all the more so as both are so convincing. The picture of the West Indian community in Bristol in the 1960s that emerges from these pages feels right to this reviewer (who admittedly has little insight into either the community or the city), and the obvious suggestion at the close of the book that JT is likely to appear in print again is a very welcome one: though can we have better weather next time, please?