Nic Gabriel is a former lawyer and the very successful author of a book that rewrites the story of the infamous killer, Dr. Crippen. Nic had become obsessed by the notion that Crippen had been set up, that he was found guilty and executed even though he was an innocent man. It was his obsession with his subject that had made the book a tour de force and this very success has his publishers and fans baying for a second best seller. But nothing has engaged Nic and until something does, he isn’t going to write. Dylan is convinced that he has just the story for Nic and invites him to a meet-and-greet event at which Dylan is going to use his formidable charm to coax some newly admitted barristers to submit themselves to Dylan’s firm, Valentines. Valentines isn’t a law firm but an agency that acts like a marriage broker. As Dylan describes it, ” People call me a headhunter, but it’s not a tag I care for. No, I’ll take you into my confidence. I’m a matchmaker. I marry up people like you to the job of your dreams. So that you consummate the perfect union.”
Dylan is a formidable personality, always capable of convincing people that what he says is exactly what they want to hear. Dylan has persuaded Nic to come to the reception so that they can talk afterward about something that Dylan is sure will be the perfect basis for Nic’s next best seller. “Dylan, who had seduced him with all that talk about dead lawyers….Of course he’d known that Nic could never resist a story about strange and sudden deaths. The rich man who burned in Paradise. The giant who chopped himself in half….There was a connection, Dylan had insisted…and not just because the dead men were lawyers in the same firm. Forget about suicide or accident. Think murder for pleasure. ‘As for the boy who died of shock’, Dylan said dreamily, ‘the real culprit wasn’t the guilty creature who killed him. Trust me.’ ”
Nic watches a woman as she enters the room. The woman walking toward Dylan cannot be Ella Vinton. Nic went to her funeral; “…a stone in a Sussex graveyard bore her name. She’d been left to rest in peace.” Ella was Dylan’s girlfriend, the woman who committed suicide when he ended the relationship. “In that instant Nic realized what she meant to do, guessed the truth even as she withdrew her hand from the bag. She was clasping at the black haft of a butcher’s knife….The blade shone in a ray of light as the sun emerged from behind a cloud. Dylan was motionless, his face creased in bewilderment. As if he realized something, but could not fathom the explanation for it. He spoke in a hoarse whisper…Why not Jazz?”
I doubt that anyone can read chapter one and put the book down.
Roxanne Wake begins her new job at Creed, a legal firm that pride itself on its claim that they are lawyers who are different. Creed is a highly successful firm with a reputation of defending employees against private and public sector employers who treat employees unethically. Roxanne is different as well. She has another identity and a history that will haunt her forever but that life is one she must keep secret from the people at Creed.
When Nic tries to track down the clues to the stories Dylan hadn’t had time to explain, he finds they lead to tragedies. There is a connection to Creed but finding the key is difficult until one member of the Creed group begins to help. Then Nic has to ask himself if he is a dupe.
Underlying the story is the duality of the law. Nic always wanted answers, solid ground on which to build his life, his values, and his world view. He entered the law because he believed that it offered rational explanations. He found, instead, that the law is constantly in flux, written on sand rather than granite. The author refers to Iago, the embodiment of amorality. Iago’s excuse for his cruelty is what he perceives as his unjust treatment. He lost a job he believes should have been his; he steals, lies, and kills to get what he believes is rightfully his. Advocacy requires single-minded commitment to achieving a goal; to win requires a seduction, a temptation, an enticement. Successful advocacy bestows power on the advocate. When the skills are mastered, they bring success whenever they are brought into play. Something is happening at Creed. What can be a greater temptation than the control of ones rivals?
Bryn Gabriel, Nic’s father, was a storyteller. One of Nic’s favorites, one he could never hear too many times, was part of the Arthurian legend, King Pellinore’s pursuit of the Questing Beast. The Beast’s only purpose is to be constantly sought after. In TAKE MY BREATH AWAY many are condemned to spend their lives seeking after something that is always out of reach.
I have been a fan of Martin Edwards since I read THE COFFIN TRAIL, the first book in the Hannah Scarlett/Daniel Kind series. I have not yet read any of the books in the Harry Devlin series.
TAKE MY BREATH AWAY took my breath away. The first chapter grabs the reader and the book doesn’t let go until long after the last page is read. Nic Gabriel is a character whom I would like to meet again. The other characters are damaged souls, searching for things always beyond their reach. There is hope for Roxanne because she desires to put her past behind her. On the surface the book is something of an indictment of the legal profession. In fact, it is an indictment of people for whom there are no limits to what they will do to achieve their desires. They are Iago.