Jane Hill






Random House Australia, Arrow Books, October 2006
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith


Eighteen years ago Justine Fraser was on the verge of marrying Nicky Bennet. She and Nicky had first met when she was on a three month exchange at Lowell University in New Hampshire. He quickly became the love of her life. Justine was a literature exchange student from England. After her exchange Nicky and Justine lost touch until he turned up two years later in England, proposing marriage within hours. Then eleven days later he left.

Now the newspapers are announcing that Nicky Bennet, film megastar, has disappeared. Justine, leading a very quiet life working in a bookshop in a seaside English town, immediately knows she has go to America to find out what has happened to Nicky.

Justine realises that in fact she knows very little about Nicky, and some of what she had accepted as fact was actually fiction. Justine's initial homesickness at Lowell University made her very willing to accept sexual overtures from Nicky. She made few friends, and readily accepted what Nicky told her about himself. Now, nearly twenty years later, she is still convinced that what they had was true love. Her attempts to trace Nicky in America reveal another interpretation of their relationship.

GRIEVOUS ANGEL is a poignant exploration of a young woman s experience. Most of the time Justine can see Nicky as a 'pretentious poser' but when depression strikes, as it does quite often, she sees him as a 'lost opportunity'. Three years before Justine's American exchange, her older sister Marie committed suicide, and deep down Justine blames herself. For much of her life Justine has been depressed and insecure, believing that first Marie and then Nicky rejected her because of her social ineptitude. In a sense GRIEVOUS ANGEL is Justine's journey to truth. It did make me re-think the story of Justine's life and to take another view of her own understanding of what had happened to her.

GRIEVOUS ANGEL is many-layered, with information about earlier events revealed through a series of flashbacks. One of the problems for me was that there were facts revealed early that I didn't fully realise I would need to know later. This created a sense of deja-vu in the story as I struggled to work out why I already knew something. At times I did recognise that I had already learnt this fact, but now I had a better idea of its significance.

GRIEVOUS ANGEL is not strictly a mystery nor even a thriller, although there is the mystery of what has happened to Nicky Bennet. I am not sure what its true genre is, perhaps 'romantic mystery' if there is such a classification. There is violence, even a murder, but the central theme is how Justine Fraser has coped with what life has dealt her.

Author Jane Hill is the director of programming for an award-winning group of commercial radio stations in the U.K., and previously worked as a radio journalist. She lives in Lincoln, England.

October 2006 Review first published on Murder & Mayhem


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