I was recommended Margaret Yorke by a colleague who thought this would be an excellent author to add to my pile of crime fiction; I’m ashamed to say the 1993 winner of the CWA Golden Handcuff Award, for the most popular crime writer had passed me by.
A Small Deceit was first published in 1991 although the story it tells is set firmly in 1990. The first thing I noticed is how small the book seems, back in the early 90’s some paperbacks could still fit in a reasonably sized coat pocket although the size of the print has decreased to match resulting in a tidy 200 page book.
At the centre of our plot is William Adams a cold-hearted killer who sentenced for rape and assault has just been released from prison. He changes his name but when visiting a rural guest house he meets someone from the past who is not who he says he is. ‘From a small deceit, great crimes can grow…’
This book flits backwards and forwards building up the characters of both William and Judge Colin Drew, his wife Felicity and grown-up son Tim. Felicity is bored with the routine of her life so she has taken up buying and selling small antiques as a hobby, all this is kept secret from the judge who has kept her well but holds the school of thought that women are to be kept in the home and not encouraged to spread their wings but Felicity needs more than a twice-monthly visit from her pompous son and daughter-in-law to keep her spirits up. As befits her standing in the community Felicity has the faithful Mrs Hunter to help out with the house. This book gives a fascinating peek behind the window-dressing where all in the household is not well.
To the mix of characters we meet June a doctor’s widow who has transformed her home into a welcoming guest house where weary travellers or visitors to the area can rest-up and enjoy a good breakfast.
I found this to be a masterpiece of a crime novel, only slightly marred by too many soliloquies on the rehabilitation of prisoners. The characters really are key to this type of crime novel which keeps its bodies mainly out of sight. The plot tension was carefully tightened as the feeling of menace emanates from our known killer grows page by page.
I’m glad I found this little book particularly as one of the characters is a staunch monarchist and so it was also a snapshot in time of the year before the Queen stated; ‘1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis.’ So within the pages of A Small Deceit our character was still able to revere a monarchy free from scandal.
A brilliant little book, I am very glad that I have two more books by Margaret Yorke to read on my TBR.