The Fall by Claire McGowan

It looks like a crime novel, and yes, it is a crime novel. But it’s not so much the sory of a crime or the story of an investigation as the story of the effects of one crime on two very different women.

Charlotte has a wonderful life. She has a high-flying career in PR, she is engaged to Dan, a wealthy banker, they live in a luxury London apartment, and she is making elaborate plans for a dream wedding.

Keisha has a less wonderful life. Chris, her boyfriend has started to drink heavily and if often abusive, and her daughter was taken into care after a violent altercation, and she wishes she could leave but she has nowhere to go.

They sound a little stereotyped, and they are a little, but they are also believable, fallible, interesting human beings. And an interesting study in contrasts.

Their paths cross in a nightclub. Dan wanted to go somewhere different after a very difficult day and Chris had business there.

At the end of the evening a man was dead, and Dan was arrested and charged with murder.

Charlotte is devastated. She can’t believe it, but the evidence is there. Her wedding plans are ruined, her friends abandon her, and her employer seizes an opportunity to let her go.

Keisha is worried. Chris disappeared that night and he came back with blood on his clothing. She finally leaves, but she’s scared. She wants to do the right thing but she knows that there would be reprisals and that she could lose her daughter for good.

Two women who could crumble, but they find that they have more strength than they realised and they both pick themselves up and try to carry on. But it’s difficult, and both will face new complications.

But they will meet, and they will support each other: the woman whose boyfriend is accused of murder and the woman who believes her boyfriend is responsible for the murder.

It’s a touch unbelievable, yet it works.

As a human story The Fall works very well. There are a few too many coincidences and contrivances, but I could live with that because Claire McGowan handles her material so well. She has created two distinctive voices, she says a lot about race, class, how people react to difficulties very well, and she kept me believing and turning the pages.

But as a crime story it was not so good, Because it is clear from the start what happened. Because all thoughts of a defence are put on hold until the end of a book and then things start to happen far too quickly. And because it all felt just a little bit contrived, designed to fit around the stories of the two women.

The Fall is a very readable book, but it doesn’t quite work as well as it might have.

But the idea was great, and I’d certainly give anything else that Claire McGown writes the benefit of the doubt.

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