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Perfect Sins by Jo Bannister
Cover Artist: Tom Hallman
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250054203
Date: 09 December 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Wikipedia Entry / Show Official Info /

Former government munitions investigator, Gabriel Ash, and his friend, Constable Hazel Best, visit her father, Fred Best. He is the handyman on the ancient Byrfield Estate in the small British village of Burford. Also living on the estate is a group of eccentric, dysfunctional families.

During an excavation of a burial mound, resident archaeologist, David Sperrin, uncovers the grave of a male child who was murdered thirty years ago. Who is this child? Who murdered him and why? The answers will tear families apart. Meanwhile, someone who doesn't want those answers revealed begins endangering the lives of the two friends, Ash and Best.

Perfect Sins is a macabre mystery that is perfectly chilling. It gave me the creeps, more so than Bannister's excellent series debut, Deadly Virtues. Once again, the psychologically and physically scarred Gabriel Ash is searching for clues in the disappearance of his wife, Cathy, and their two young boys, Gilbert and Guy. Somali pirates took them hostage because Ash was coming too close to discovering the truth about hijacked planes carrying weapons to Africa--weapons manufactured by Bertram Castings. At the beginning of Perfect Sins, Ash is questioning Bertram's CEO, Stephen Graves, about potential security leaks. Ash fears that, after four years, his family is dead.

Ash is a strange person. For several years, he kept himself isolated until his psychiatrist convinced him to adopt Patience, a dog. Now, he talks to Patience. Strangely enough, Patience talks to him; no one else hears her but Ash. This leads me to believe that either Ash has a supernatural gift or is simply psychotic. The reader is left wondering. Ash is socially dysfunctional; he is an extreme introvert. After losing his family, he probably has numerous trust issues. Enter Hazel Best who has more patience than Patience. In fact, if you are going to be Gabriel Ash's friend, you better have patience. Best, in my opinion, should be nominated for sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Will Ash and Best ever become lovers? Absolutely not. Ash is still in love with his wife, Cathy, who hasn't been declared legally dead. Ash has given up on everything in life except he hasn't given up on unraveling the mystery of his family's disappearance. He will never surrender until their corpses have been found. Best is not trying to romance Ash. She is only trying to get him to emerge from the ashes of death and rejoin the land of the living. Best is truly one of the best characters I have ever met in literature. She is a good police officer who will jeopardize her career in order to help friends and family.

The setting is spectacular: a large, beautiful, isolated country estate that has belonged in the Byrfield family for centuries. I never realized how embroiled the British are with their class system. No wonder they practically venerate the royal family. Throughout the generations, the Byrfields had to produce male heirs in order to keep the estate within the family; a baby girl wouldn't be sufficient. Also, this estate has many dark, disturbing secrets. Loyalties are brought into question. Once again, as in many mysteries, residents are living under false pretenses. Before the novel reaches its shocking conclusion, reputations of both the dead and the living will become tattered. The sins of the perfect will be revealed.

Though Perfect Sins isn't a gory, violent, high body count thriller, which I simply love, it is a fast-paced mystery. This is due primarily to its excellent characterization, unique setting, and extreme amount of drama among the various classes of a British estate. There are some tense moments when Ash and Best are threatened by a crazed gunman. The ending contains a most shocking cliffhanger that guarantees fans will have another sequel to read. I can hardly wait for it. However, Perfect Sins will be hard to beat. I suggest that new fans to the series read its debut, Deadly Virtues, in order to glean a better understanding of Gabriel Ash's injured psyche.

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