PACIFIC HEIGHTS

Written by Paul Harper

Review written by Carole Tyrell

Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.


PACIFIC HEIGHTS
Quercus
RRP: £12.99
Released: 4th August 2011
Hbk

The relationship between a psychoanalyst and her clients should be sacrosanct and confidential.  Absolute trust between them is essential.  So it is with mounting horror, that Vera List begins to suspect that two of her married patients, Lore and Elise, are involved with the same shadowy and increasingly controlling man.  A manipulative, mysterious person who wandered into their lives, seemingly by chance, and now seems determined to drive them to destruction.  They know little about him, not even his real name or that he’s seeing each of them at the same time.  However, he knows far too much about them and is prepared to use this knowledge to ensure that they play their part in his chilling and destructive plans.

This is when Vera calls in Marten Fane, the man to go to when you’ve run out of options, as she realises that the demon lover has gained his knowledge of the two women from her client files.  She’s upset by the breach of confidentiality and also having to watch the effect he’s having on their lives.  An earlier patient committed suicide and she now questions whether it was actually murder.

Lore and Elise initially enjoyed the fantasy and illicit aspects of their relationship but now, having grown increasingly concerned at his knowledge of them they want him to ‘stop crawling into their minds’, and taking over their lives. As Lore says, ‘sometimes you don’t come back from weird’ and Elise wants him to leave her a place in which to hide. Fane and his small team soon discover his true identity and that others are also looking for him.  A rogue operative, on the blurred borderline between the Government and big business, he’s become too dangerous.    You can disappear but you can’t hide forever. 

Vera reveals her suspicions to Lore and Elise and introduces them to each other and they join forces with Fane to hunt down their former lover before he carries out his plan to demonstrate a new and effective way of killing.  A method that faceless, global corporations would pay big money to acquire and use.

This was a real page turner of a book which mainly takes place over five days and I wasn’t sure for a while who the target was meant to be.  Initially I thought it was Vera, then Elise’s husband and then maybe them and Lore together.  It was very plausible and chilling in its depiction of sophisticated intelligence techniques in breaking down suspects and leaving no traces and had several excellent plot twists including how 9/11 changed the intelligence and surveillance landscape forever once big business moved in. 

Set against the backdrop of San Francisco and its mists rolling in from the sea I had the feeling that it was a city of secrets. The major players, including the widowed Fane, are all damaged people who’ve experienced tragedy or cruel twists of fate which have made them stronger. Lore and Elise are eventually more than a match for their seducer.  Pacific Heights was well paced and clearly set the scene for another Martin Fane book which I look forward to. Harper’s style is good, crisp writing with no info-dumps of back story or lengthy explanations which tend to slow a story down.  I found Fane believable and credible – a man who accidentally stumbled into his role and become good at it.  There was only one quibble – if the manipulator was so organised and efficient why did he select his patients from only one psychoanalyst’s client list?

 

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