Book Review: Hope Road – John Barlow

Hope Road
About Hope Road (2011)
Hope RoadYou can’t change your past. But what about your future?

John Ray, son of crime boss Antonio ‘Tony’ Ray, is the straight one of the family. With a successful business and a lifestyle to match, he wants nothing to do with his father’s criminal world. But what does that world want with him?

A young prostitute is found dead in John’s car, and Freddy Metcalfe, his best friend and employee, is framed for her death. Freddy denies everything but it’s an open and shut case: he’s going down for murder. John sets out to find the real killer.

But things get complicated. A stash of counterfeit money was also found in John’s car, and the police seem more interested in that than in the dead girl. Then Lanny Bride turns up; one of the north’s most ruthless criminals (and an old friend of the Ray family), Lanny is desperate to know who killed the girl. But why? Meanwhile, Freddy is too scared to talk to anyone, even his lawyer.

John’s police detective girlfriend, Denise Danson, has been warned off the case by her boss. But she doesn’t believe Freddy is guilty, and secretly helps John look for the murderer. The problem, though, is that uncovering the shocking truth about the girl’s death will force John to confront his own criminal past and risk destroying his future, as well as losing the only woman he’s ever loved.

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Review: Hope Road 

I worked in Leeds for four years so the prospect of a crime thriller set in the city was certainly one that had me interested from the start. John Barlow’s Hope Road focuses on a solitary murder and delves into the criminal underworld in North England where one man finds his past will simply not let go.

The primary character is John Ray, the son of crime boss Antonio “Tony” Ray, who is now in a home and his criminal days are over. John stayedout of the family business while his brother Joe was gunned down before him in the family’s second hand car dealership which formed a mask for their criminal activities. However, John has made the business legit and has won an award for his efforts. Things become complicated when a young woman is found dead in one of his cars, a stash of money is with her and the prime suspect is one of John’s staff, Freddy Metcalfe. To make things more complicated, John has an alibi in the form of his girlfriend, Detective Denise Danson, while a crime boss Lanny Bride also takes an interest in the murdered girl and wants answers. Having desperately tried to leave his past behind, John is thrust back into the dark and gritty criminal underworld in search of the truth.

Hope Road begins quickly and initially it seems Denise Danson may be our central character as she is contacted about a murder but is soon ordered by her superiors to remain off the case. As John’s alibi she cannot be involved but despite the suspicions of her peers, Denise doesn’t believe John has anything to do with the murder of a young woman, Donna. In turn, John is convinced Freddy is innocent, even after he is arrested and kept in custody for questioning. John’s personal investigation leads him to a hotel where Donna frequently visited and to two Ukrainians who John believes are the culprits for the murder.

As the mystery unfolds we have video footage from the hotel, different accounts of events, large stashes of money coming into the country and the ever growing suspicion and threat of the police as John tries to find the truth. His past proves hard to shake off even though John insists the life his father and brother led is not one he followed. John is well-educated and legitimate but somehow that isn’t enough for the law. With Freddy in custody and time running out, John finds help from Denise even though their relationship begins to show cracks, as well as another member of John’s staff – Connie. With Lanny Bride becoming involved though, can John solve the case before more blood is shed?

I enjoyed Hope Road. It was an intriguing murder mystery from start to finish with a small group of suspects for Donna’s murder. I failed to guess who the killer was but there were some surprising revelations towards the end of the novel. It was strange reading about parts of Leeds that I know and have seen with my own eyes and with this being part of a series of books, I will look forward to further instalments.

Hope Road is a good murder mystery that moves along at a fast pace and carefully unfolds the story of Donna’s last days and her death. A small group of suspects will keep the reader guessing and with John having a somewhat shady past you will be left wondering if he has been involved in any way.

Verdict: 4/5

(Book source: review received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review)

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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