Review: Fear No Evil by Debbie Johnson (3.5/5)

Thursday 20 November 2014
The dead don't like to be ignored…

Jayne McCartney, Liverpool's only female private eye, is soon to get a crash course in this and other ghost-related facts.

Until now she’s kept her snooping firmly to the dodgy, sometimes dangerous – but definitely human – Liverpool underworld. But that all changes when an elderly couple approach her with a terrifying story…

Their daughter, a 19-year-old student, died falling from her halls’ window. But she didn't jump, they insist – she was pushed. By a ghost.

Who or what is walking the halls of Hart House? And will this case end up haunting Jayne forever…?

A fantasy novel, a chick lit novel and a crime novel. I can't think of many authors to have released three books in those genres, yet Debbie Johnson is one who has. I loved her fantasy novel, liked her chick lit novel and only liked Fear No Evil, her crime effort. But, I liked it a lot. I just didn't love it like I expected I would. All the hallmarks of what makes a crime novel good, and what I usually look for are there, I just have a few small niggles that I couldn't get past that prevented me from enjoying the book as much as I might have if they weren't there.

I am a firm believer in the paranormal. I grew up collecting and reading Tom Slemen's Haunted Liverpool books. There's no doubt that otherwordly things exist in Liverpool, but ghosts killing people? I don't know about that. And nor does our main character, PI Jayne McCartney when she is hired by two parents who believe their daughter was stalked by a ghost, and then pushed from her bedroom window by the ghost. Given this book was released around Halloween, it's not a particularly frightening read, you won't be sleeping with the light on or hiding under the covers, everything makes sense as the book progresses so the skeptics looking at this and thinking 'Really?', definitely give it a go.

I did really like Jayne as a character, despite the stupid name. I might have got over it if her investigation didn't lead her to an ex-priest by the name of Dan Lennon who she practically jumps the bones of. Some might think it's funny having the surnames of two Beatles for character names, I have to say I wasn't a huge fan. On the whole though I liked Jayne, she was a strong, independent woman and if there's one thing Debbie knows how to write, it's a fantastic female character. She's sassy, fierce and takes no messing from anybody which is what you want from your main character. She's also quite sarcastic and quite funny at times, humour in crime fiction definitely works best when it's inside the head of the character, getting to see how they think and how their minds work. She's definitely a Scouser is our Jayne.

Now, I'm all for comedy in crime fiction, it's needed for those lighter moments in what can be at times a fairly dark read. Stuart MacBride does it almost as well as the crime. I just felt that with Fear No Evil the comedy was at times a bit silly and unnecessary. Like when someone's telling a joke and they don't know when to stop. It's funny at first then it just grates. I suppose what it boils down to is crime fiction set in Liverpool doesn't come along often, so when it does I want to see the city becoming as much of a character as the actual characters in the book. I don't want readers to take away with them the thought that the city isn't good enough to be taken seriously as a setting for crime fiction. McCartney and Lennon, the unnecessary humour. As a crime novel it could have worked, Debbie knows Liverpool well and has brought the city to life here most of the time. It isn't all the glitz and the glamour of Scousewives and the like, the seedy and gritty picture portrayed of Liverpool here is both realistic and believable. I could see myself walking the streets, and became a part of the book which in places was very atmospheric.

Overall then do I recommend this book? Of course. Opinion is subjective and I did enjoy the book for the most part apart from the few little niggles mentioned above. The book ended in a way that would lead very nicely into a sequel. I know Debbie is a busy author but I would like to see another crime fiction book from her. I'd just hope that it might iron out the problems I've mentioned here and take on a more serious tone. Crime fiction in Liverpool doesn't come along very often, so when it does I probably have higher expectations than most. Think Luca Veste. I'd definitely check out another crime book from Debbie though, or in fact anything she writes. If you do pick up this book come back and let me know how you found it!

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. 

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