There's a quote from near the end of the classic film "Groundhog Day" in which the lead character says: "Anything different is good." It's a great line and works well in the film. The same thought is often true of books. "Penitent" by Mark Leggatt is an enthralling thriller. If it could be encapsulated in one word then that word would be "different". A lot of the elements might at firstly sight seem familiar. Much of the book is set in and around Edinburgh and the city is captured beautifully. And this isn't the first thriller I've read in which the misdeeds of the powerful are covered up by agencies of the state.
Perhaps what really sets "Penitent" by Mark Leggatt apart from any other thriller I can think of is the central character. I'll turn here to the cover blurb: "Meet Hector Lawless. As a brilliant Edinburgh lawyer, Hector has a reputation for untangling the cases that no other lawyer can handle. But the obsessive-compulsive behaviour that’s made him a master of the law has also left Hector a pariah amongst his peers - a social outcast with crippling anxiety. The man with the perfectly ordered desk, the pristine notebooks, the strictly regimented working day and rituals that make sense only to him. When Hector is approached by his boss, Lord Campbell, with a highly sensitive case that reaches from one of Edinburgh’s most exclusive private schools to 10 Downing Street, he relishes the chance to bring true evil to justice. Hector must call on every one of the skills he has cultivated over a lifetime of being an outsider to survive. Justice will be served."
Most of the story is told from the perspective of Hector Lawless and what the blurb doesn't quite prepare you for is the sense of being transported into a world view that feels very alien in many ways. When the settings, events and other characters are seen through the prism of Hector's very particular take on reality they all begin to assume slightly odd shapes. The settings are mainly in Edinburgh, yes, but not quite in the Edinburgh those who live in the area are used to. And the other characters start to feel a little like slightly caricatured versions of those you might find elsewhere. The result is at first slightly disconcerting, and then engaging and, as it is carried on consistently through the book, extremely impressive. This is a book I enjoyed a great deal and will remember long after other contemporary thrillers I have yet to read have faded from the memory.