In her first thriller, The Last Girl
, London barrister Penelope Evans created a memorable monster--a landlord who would do anything to keep his young, female tenants from leaving--and earned herself strong praise from the likes of Ruth Rendell and Penelope Fitzgerald. In her second book, Evans gives us an even more original central character: Stewart Park, an odd, ugly, very innocent, and ultimately most sympathetic young man who works as a morgue photographer. He becomes obsessed with the frozen body of a fragile blonde drowning victim: "They must have rolled her onto the bank. River police. Everyday sort of work for them, people in the water. But not usually so recent. They would have taken one look at her and tried everything-- mouth to mouth, heart massage, volts of electric--everything short of shaking the life back into her.... She was beautiful. Is it all right to say that? That is what she was--beautiful. Her mouth was wide, and despite all those kisses on the river bank, unimpressed. You could trace every vein in her eyelids. There was even a faint hint of color in her cheeks. The river had done no more than wet her and take her breath away. So why not put her back in the river, and maybe the breath will return to her?" His fascination with the dead girl causes Park to put himself at considerable risk by trying to find out who she was and how she died. And Evans has such a sure grasp on the sadly mundane details of this outwardly bizarre life that we're with him every step of the way. --Dick Adler
From Publishers Weekly
Evans is a young London writer and lawyer with a distinct knack for macabre chills. Her new book, after The Last Girl (1997), takes as its improbable hero narrator Stewart Park, an abject stutterer of weird appearance who lives in a fantasy world of his own and works as a photographer in a morgue. Into the morgue one cold night comes the body of a lovely young woman drowned in the Thames, and Stewart, obsessed with the image of her frozen beauty, resolves to find out who she is and what happened to her. He has plenty of problems of his own in one of those gothic slum households beloved of contemporary English writers: his aging father is an eccentric who may also be a child molester; his angry sister gravitates to bullying men who mistreat her two appealing small sons; and his only comfort seems to be a computer game he has devised. Stewart's search for the dead girl's identity breaks him out of his fantasy shell but also places him in terrible dangerAand, in a frightful climactic moment, forces him to come to terms with the specter that has haunted his own unhappy family. Evans's grasp of Stewart's macabre world is sure, and his strange workmates at the morgue are wonderfully characterized. It is only in the real-life machinations that led to the drowned girl's death and in the remorseless pursuit of Stewart by some rather dimly motivated thugs that the plot machinery gets a little creaky. Still, for its gripping atmosphere and a truly original protagonist, Evans's book is a winner.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.