St. Martin's, Jan 2003, 24.95, 320 pp.
Sly Rogers invites his friend private investigator Billy Oliphant and daughter Kirsty to spend a pleasant wintry weekend at Forestcrag Moorland Holiday Village. The trek to the remote North England resort is not fun, but Bill expects a luxurious relaxing few days spent with his daughter. However, director David Morland wants to hire Billy to quietly investigate the recent poisoning of employees. Billy says no wanting to just R&R with Kirsty and not impact his work waiting for his return home.
A nasty storm strands the occupants of Forestcrag. When the corpse of payroll manager Eric Salkeld is found hanging, Billy calls the local police, who cannot easily get to the death scene. Though it appears a simple suicide, the locals ask Billy as a former cop to conduct a preliminary investigation and to contain the scene until they arrive. He also receives a warning from the police that someone he once arrested has escaped and is in the area. Meanwhile Billy notices marks on the body making him conclude the so-called suicide is a cover up of a murder.
Fans of suspense laden investigation thrillers will feel they gained much PAYBACK from Alan Dunn's novel that reads somewhat like a police procedural once the first of several murders occur. The story line is very exciting so much so that the well-written climax seems weak by comparison. Still, Billy is a delightful lead character and those close to him accentuate the audience's ability to understand the hero's preference of non-involvement. When all is said and done, readers will appreciate PAYBACK and look for more novels from this British author.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner