Kiss and Tell,
a mystery by T.J.Cooke
This is an excellent mystery about a lawyer whose life turns upside down when the father of her daughter is released from jail after twelve years of incarceration for drug trafficking. She’d been a teenager, and he’d broken her heart when she found out what he’d been doing. She never visited him in jail or told her daughter about him. She’d hoped never to see him again. But Jimmy isn’t the only thing that walks into her life then. She takes on a client, Bella, arrested for bringing cocaine into the country and discovers that the case is the tip of a hulking great iceberg.
Bella is a very small and dispensable piece in a very large drug operation that involves crooked cops and politicians. Even the police with the task of breaking the ring don’t know who they can trust in their own ranks. It turns out that Jimmy knows some of the characters involved from his time in prison He wants to help, but can Jill trust him? She doesn’t know this new, supposedly reformed, and certainly more educated Jimmy, and her fear that he is trying to wrestle their daughter away from her makes her view everything he does with suspicion.
At first Bella doesn’t say very much and a man in a suit keeps turning up and advising her, then disappearing again. Either no one knows who he is, or they aren’t saying. Gradually the pieces fall into place, and Jill begins to trust Jimmy who puts himself in danger in order to help her bring the drug lords to justice. Everything goes pear-shaped again, however, when someone presents her with a different and more sinister version of the events, casting Jimmy as the bad guy and Jill as aiding him. Jill doesn’t know what or who to believe, but in this, completely plausible, version of events, her hard-won job is in the line.
The story begins after Jill’s daughter, Hannah, has disappeared and Jill is in a police safe-house for her protection. As a way of coping with the stress of not knowing her daughter’s fate, she goes back over the events that led to this point in her life. The author skilfully plays on the tension between what we know now and what we must learn from the past, so we read on keen to fill in the missing pieces.
This is a rich, multilayered story that, as well as being primarily about a very real and frightening aspect of our society, looks deeply into Jill’s personal issues, ones common to many in our society. In the end this novel is, perhaps, primarily about perception. We see how people’s concepts, desires, fears and projections create their perception of events and their resultant behaviour. After the event, when looked back on with a fuller understanding, things can look very different indeed. Perhaps we judged someone unfairly and it may be too late to ever make it up to them.
The characters are strong, fully fleshed out and easy to identify with. The story is well-paced and engaging. The dialogue is realistic and the plot complex enough to be very satisfying when you put it all the pieces of the mystery together. The prose is immediate and flows well. I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it.