Trust No One by Alex Walters

Walters, Alex – ‘Trust No One’
Paperback: 384 pages (Sep. 2011) Publisher: Avon ISBN: 184756285X

Marie Donovan is an undercover police officer who is sent from her London base to Manchester to help in investigating a shady businessman, Jeff Kerridge, and his empire. In the course of her fabricated occupation as a printer, she meets and embarks on a flirtation with Jake Morton, Kerridge’s accountant, whom Marie thinks will make a good informant. In Jake’s apartment late one night, Marie decides to end the affair because she’s in a long term relationship with Liam, a struggling artist with whom she shares a house in London. Her thoughts are interrupted by some intruders who break into the apartment and begin to attack Jake. Marie just manages to escape, but is convinced she’s been set up, possibly by a mole among her own police colleagues.

For the rest of the novel, Marie is constantly wrong-footed about who are the good guys and who the baddies. There are plenty of candidates: her boss Hugh Salter is patronising and unpleasant; Salter’s own boss and head of the overall operation is a chain-smoking, fat man who gives little away. Between them, the men put Marie through a too-tough initiation test. Kerridge’s partner Boyle is in prison, but the cops don’t have enough evidence to bring a conviction, hence Marie’s task of infiltrating Kerridge’s circle and finding people in it who will “grass” to the police. In addition, Marie’s printing company has two employees, one of whom is rather eerily solicitous to Marie.

The action switches in time, sometimes focusing on the tensions between Marie and Liam, who is seriously ill as well as resentful of Marie for being away in Manchester all the time instead of with him. He has a chip on his shoulder because he relies on Marie financially. Marie is guilty about abandoning Liam but addicted to her exciting life on the edge; she enjoys outwitting criminals and is determined to find the evidence to put both Boyle and Kerridge away for a long time. The rest of the novel is about Marie’s efforts in this regard, both before and after the attack on Jake.

TRUST NO ONE is a quick and fast book to read. Marie is a strong, capable woman who mostly manages to outwit everyone, although an extraordinarily high proportion of the cast of characters in the novel are on Marie’s suspect list, either because she thinks they are involved in crime or because they may be double-crossing her. Some of her actions seem a little illogical, for example what she does with a couple of important packages she receives, or the basis on which she decides to trust or not trust certain individuals. She’s also very careful in some ways not to be followed or observed, but in others seems a bit slapdash, particularly when she meets not one but several of her suspects alone without covering herself, leading to some tricky situations and “woman in peril”-style showdowns familiar to readers of the genre.

Because events are told from Marie’s perspective, we never learn much about the other characters independently of her; perhaps if we’d known more about Kerridge and his presumed criminal activities, I’d have understood more about the importance of her mission. As it stands, I was a bit confused by the motivations of the people involved in the various plot twists (of which there are several) when they reveal their true colours (or possibly not) to Marie. Nevertheless, Marie certainly has an exciting time in a novel with very few if any lulls; she is a welcome addition to the current trend for strong, independent female protagonists.

Review first published at Euro Crime, November 2011.

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