PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 January, 2009, 12:00am


by Clare Francis

Pan Macmillan, HK$94

Hugh Gwynne is the sort of lawyer who seems to exist in best-selling novels only. Sensitive, clever and rich, he has a solid reputation and a seemingly perfect life. When Gwynne takes on the case of Tom Deacon, he has little idea how his life is about to change. He should have known better: this isn't real life, this is a novel by Clare Francis, the sailor-turned-master-of-mystery. Deacon is pleading for damages after his daughter was killed in a car crash, and he claims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Then Gwynne receives an anonymous letter alleging Deacon is forcing his estranged wife to lie about salient details of the accident, including Deacon's drinking. Gwynne is squirming on the horns of this dilemma when his life falls apart: a fire at his house claims his wife and a vast collection of semi-precious objects. Suddenly, his life doesn't seem so different from Deacon's after all. Francis' books are rather like her sea-faring career. There are ups and downs, thrills and spills and sudden changes of direction. Granted, there are hardly any seagulls and far fewer fish roaming about, save, of course, for some well-placed red herrings.