The world of Jasper Candle, a “ruthless compensation lawyer”, is set in the courts, bars and streets of Durham. The description of the city is excellent: Smith shows a flair for this, and it was effortless to conjure up the areas described in my mind’s eye.
The man himself, Jasper Candle, is a character of some depth, with the flaws and nuances one would expect of a successful lawyer of his standing. Unfortunately, the character is perhaps rather too typical – the flaws and nuances feel somewhat unoriginal. It is clear that Candle is troubled by a physical ailment, the development and diagnosis of which is essential to the plot. Unfortunately, as a medic reading this novel, the diagnosis became clear rather sooner than I feel the author would have hoped in order to maintain suspense through to the twist at the end.
However, having discussed the plot with family members, I feel that this would not have been so apparent to a non-medical audience. Other characters within the book are somewhat more intriguing. In particular, the investigator Lazlo is perhaps the most interesting. His clothes and ‘cheap’ piercings put him firmly in the lower class, but he shows understanding and insight into the feelings and motivation of his employer, Candle.
The plot itself is complex and several themes run in parallel. This would be confusing were it not for some skill on Smith’s part in keeping the chapters short and succinct. It also had the added benefit of keeping the pages turning. If I had any criticisms of the novel it was the use of cockney rhyming slang to add ‘depth’ to Candle as a character – it felt unnecessary and at times plain out of place. I also think that sometimes Smith utilised long and challenging words and sentences, which over-complicated the style of the book.
Overall, I felt that this was a great read. The storyline is relevant, up-to-date, and made me think about certain issues from a different perspective; it is certainly one to consider for your next bedtime book.