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Like False MoneyAuthor: Penny Grubb

Reviewed in Books on Mar 8, 2016 by John Scotcher

I’m not usually a fan of crime fiction.  Or at least it’s not my ‘go to’ choice when deciding what I am going to read.  Apart from a few Inspector Morse novels when I was younger and the inevitable John Grisham thriller (is that even crime?) I haven’t felt the urge to read them.  I also tend to shy away from crime TV unless it has something else that really grabs me (a period piece, Oxford, that sort of thing).  So I approached Penny Grubb’s ‘Like False Money’ with just a little trepidation.

The first thing that hit me was that old adage; “it’s grim oop north”.  The novel, the first of the “P.I. Annie Raymond” stories is set mostly around a little village on the outskirts of Hull.  I have recently had occasion to get to know that area of the country, but having only really seen it (as yet) in the winter months, I got an impression of a bleakness which this novel seems to capitalise on.  The parts of the story that are not in the countryside, centre on a particular estate in Hull itself, which does little to dispel that bleakness.  Admittedly, my only other in-road to the area was the excellent police drama, “East Riding”, on ITV a few years ago - very austere in itself.  Memories of this drama also coloured the world of “Like False money” grey in my mind. 

Yet, if the location and atmosphere painted a sombre, ominous backdrop, then the characters filled the foreground with splashes of colour.  To me, as I have said many times before, the true power at the core of any gripping story are its characters.  Without characters that you can grow to love, hate, fear, laugh at and the wealth of other emotions required, it is almost impossible (for me at least) to find one’s way into the story.  In creating her characters Penny Grubb has demonstrated a real talent to capture human life and trap it on the page. 

With her lead character, Annie Raymond, Penny pulls a master stroke.  The book is set at the start of Annie Raymond’s career and thus, as the story unfolds through her eyes we get to see her development not just as a character but within her own story world career too.  Annie is outwardly brash, inwardly unsure, wet behind the ears and very easy to like.   Seeing her first successes in her private investigation work lead us into that world almost without realising it is happening.

Around her, the supporting cast are both believable and unique.  From Annie’s sofa bound, cynical employer, through the inner city ner-do-wells on the estate, to the locals we meet in the village of Milesthorpe, each character is a fully rounded, believable individual.  Even those bit players that appear at the edges of the story make you care about their plight.

Of course, this is a crime novel and a fully formed cast of characters would be redundant without a mystery.  Of course, I can’t tell you too much about that here, but like all good murder mysteries, the story starts with a death.  Penny Grubb proves to be a master of the reveal, dropping plenty of twists and turns in, so you find yourself revising your own list of mental suspects repeatedly. 

The story is a classic whodunit that weaves a number of disparate threads and narratives together, tying them all up in a neat and satisfying conclusion.  I read the book in three sittings over a weekend. I was gripped and guessing to the end. 

There are now five Annie Raymond novels.  If crime drama is your thing, then you would do well to try them. You will not be disappointed.  And if like me, it isn’t, pick it up anyway – you will find yourself discovering an dark lonely alley leading to a whole new genre to enjoy!

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Can fledgling PI Annie Raymond cut it on her own when faced with an impossible job, a boss who hasn't a clue who she is and a schoolgirl who is ready to blacken her name to save her own skin? Annie has resloved to do her best for grieving mother Martha Martin and keep the sordid details of her son Terry's life hidden, but when conflicting stories around Terry's last days surface, Annie is quickly entangled in a web of rumour and deceit. Pretence and distortion have become accepted as integrity and truth... but who is a fraudster and who is an innocent victim? Annie desperately needs a third case on her books to secure her future, but when it comes, her future career is the last thing on her mind. Not only has Annie herself walked into a trap but she has also led a young girl into mortal danger. Can she make things right before it's too late?

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