This is a pacey, absorbing thriller, which starts with a murder. Unusually, we know who did it, but we don’t know why. It is set in Springfield, Illinois, and features a cast of characters from the great and good of that city. Our murderer could hardly be described as great and good, in spite of being married to Helen, the granddaughter of Springfield’s grande dame, Becky Freyl.
David Marion grew up in a slum, became a violent criminal and at the age of fifteen was sentenced to life for two murders. In prison, his prospects took a new turn when he met Hugh Freyl, the philanthropic son of Becky, and father of Helen, who personally undertook his education and eventually, after battling for many years, secured his release on a technicality. Hugh Freyl by then was blind and met his death in mysterious circumstances, but in Springfield circles David Marion is widely blamed for the crime. Small wonder, then, that Springfield’s elite are not exactly crazy about Helen’s recent marriage to David.
This is a truly extraordinary novel, with a fascinating mix of ingredients, but it all centres round Springfield’s water supply and the battle over whether it should remain as a public utility or should be privatized under the umbrella of a vast international corporation owned by the Slad brothers, a revolting pair of oligarchs. We have a corrupt mayor, the terrible situation inside South Hams penitentiary, the alma mater of David Marion, where the inmates are being used as illegal slave labour to dig canals for the proposed new privatized water company – the prison is already run by a private organisation. The water privatization is fiercely opposed by Becky Freyl and her cohorts. Then another element enters the picture – the inmates of South Hams begin to die from a mysterious illness not unlike cholera, but it is not cholera, because victims turn blue before they die…… There are also several members of the large cast of characters lusting after other characters husbands/wives to add spice to the mix.
What makes this so compulsive is that you have no idea where the plot is going next. It would be a pity to give any more of it away.