To the Grave by John Barlow – Review
By Sandra Callard
The second book in John Barlow’s DS Joe Romano Series is an impressive crime novel and an exciting, dramatic and compulsive read. The author was born in Gomersal, West Yorkshire and his novel evokes the good and the bad of life as a detective in the city of Leeds. To The Grave is a taut, fast and breathless foray into the horrific and sad lives of those who become enmeshed in the world of those ruthless individuals who use and abuse them as they slide into modern slavery.
Detective Sergeant Joe Romano gets involved with these illegal immigrants as he discovers how badly they are treated. Murder follows and he finds himself up to his eyes in danger as he tries to help these people and bring their tormentors to justice. The story is simple but the trapping of the persecutors is dangerous, and Romano’s life is at risk as he dares to oppose not only the killers but also some of his own.
Romano, however, has a helper in the form of his partner, Rita Scannon-Aktar, who turns out to be one tough lady who is scared of nothing and nobody. She brings affection and help to Joe as he becomes more deeply involved in the case. Rita is a joy to the reader as she barges through life and becomes a solid support to Joe. It is the sign of a good author when the reader can becomes invested in the characters as the tension mounts.
Rita is a native of Batley, a small town near Leeds which is portrayed as a less than exquisite place to live. Rita, however, revels in the place and her constant belief that she can cope with anything is a very endearing characteristic, but only if you are on her side. She is a definite tonic during the novel as she is never worried by anything that happens to her. She can always deal with it in a strong and tough way and will watch Joe’s back when she can. She is always happier when she is part of the action and was never born to be an onlooker.
As in most crime books the tension builds as the reader moves through the story, and the gathering storm is depicted well as Joe is faced with terrible danger. This is an expertly told story, and the reader will find they are reading as fast as they can to determine the exciting outcome.
Although the book contains unsavoury characters, most of which we would hopefully never meet in life, there is a fascinating normality about it, mostly from the various members of the police force for which Joe works, and also from the clear descriptions of the city of Leeds. John Barlow is proving himself a master of the crime story with just the two books he has so far published, and I am sure, and indeed hope, there will be many more from the hand of this talented author.
‘To the Grave’ by John Barlow is published by HarperCollins, £14.99 hardback