William Shaw

The Book of Scars

"The ending is possibly the rawest piece of writing I have encountered for a long while... Synopsis: "


In the final pages of the second book, 'A House of Knives', Detective Cathal Breen's collar bone was shattered by a bullet, and now, we find him recuperating in the Devon farm owned by Helen Tozer's parents.

Tozer has retired from the force, and she is haunted still by the unsolved murder of her 16-year-old sister, Alexandra on the family farm five year's previously. Her body had been mutilated in a very precise manner - a manner which had never been made public. Also on the farm is a young hippy called Hibou, who seems to have taken Alexandra's place in the family, much to Helen's dismay. Having time on his hands, Breen takes an interest in the case, and things start happening. The original investigating officer, Milkwood, goes missing, and so does Helen Tozer herself. Then a body turns up, mutilated in almost the same way as Alexandra.

He returns to London to continue his unofficial investigations, and soon discovers a connection to the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya in the 1950s. When he returns to Devon, Breen himself finds that he may become another victim of the murderer.

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This is the final book in the Breen and Tozer trilogy, this time set in 1969. As in 'A House of Knives', William Shaw puts paid to the 'peace, love and harmony' reputation of 1960's Britain. According to this book, and previous books, it was a brutal, crime-ridden decade. Shaw doesn't hold back here - the brutality is spelled out, as are the atrocities carried out in Kenya in the name of British colonialism. The writing is open and emotional, though in places it could have done with some further editing. Breen is a sympathetic character, always trying to do the right thing at a time when police detectives were not averse to bending the rules to get a conviction. Tozer is not so sympathetically drawn, and seems to concentrate on parading her own suffering at the death of her sister at the expense of the hurt others feel. The ending is possibly the rawest piece of writing I have encountered for a long while, which is not a criticism. It is honest and it is true, and seems to be the inevitable result of what has previously happened in the book.

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