Cover image for Perfect sins
Perfect sins
Bannister, Jo.
Personal Author:
[Large print ed.]
Publication Information:
Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, 2015.

Physical Description:
379 pages ; 23 cm.
"Four years ago, Gabriel Ash was working with the British government investigating hijackings in Somalia. But when his wife and sons disappeared, presumably taken--and probably killed--by pirates, his life fell apart. He has sudden reason to hope when a senior policeman suggests that his sons might still be alive--until that policeman is murdered. Still, there seems to be some link to a local operation, and Ash, no longer a government agent, is determined to find it. Meanwhile, his friend Hazel Best has been having a tough time of her own. A police constable whose last case ended with her shooting someone dead, she is just beginning to regain her balance. Hazel and Ash are both beginning to take more of an interest in the outside world, when a neighboring archaeologist decides to dig up a curious mound of earth near the ice house on his land. It might be a burial mound, he thinks. It is, but not the ancient one he expects; it holds the bones of a little boy from perhaps thirty years ago, carefully laid to rest with twentieth-century toys. As Hazel is slowly drawn back into police work, Ash finds himself under threat from someone who must think his investigation into his family's disappearance is finally getting somewhere... Jo Bannister's police procedurals have been widely praised not only for outstanding plotting and suspense, but also for their brilliant and compelling characterization"--
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Four years ago, Gabriel Ash was working with the British government investigating hijackings in Somalia. But when his wife and sons disappeared, presumably taken by pirates, his life fell apart. He has sudden reason to hope when a senior policeman suggests that his sons might still be alive -- until that policeman is murdered. No longer a government agent, Ash is determined to investigate . . . and finds himself under threat fromsomeone who thinks he's getting somewhere.

Author Notes

Jo Bannister was born in Rochdale, Lancashire, England, and resides in County Down, North Ireland. Bannister left school at sixteen and went to work for the County Down Spectator, eventually becoming its editor. She left the paper in 1988 to devote time to writing works of fiction.

Bannister is a noted mystery writer. Detective Chief Inspector Frank Shapiro, Detective Inspector Liz Graham, and Detective Seargent Cal Donovan make up a trio featured in a series of books including A Taste for Burning, Burning Desires, and A Bleeding of Innocents.

Her titles also include Flawed, From Fire and Flood, Closer Still, Fathers and Sins, and Liars All.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The disappearance of his wife and children drove former government agent Gabriel Ash mad. After observing a crime (in Deadly Virtues, 2013), he was befriended by police constable Hazel Best and slowly reentered society. Now a senior police officer's claim that Ash's family is still alive relights a hope that already nearly destroyed him once. As Ash looks for evidence that his work investigating Somali hijackings could lead him back to his family, Hazel is caught up in the investigation of a decades-old child's corpse found at a local archaeological site. Hazel grew up with the families around the estate where the body was found. Could one of them have buried a little boy and kept it a secret for nearly 30 years? As one old crime comes to a slow and sad resolution, another emerges with an urgency that will have readers demanding the next book in the series. Ash is so genuine in his neediness that his friendship with Hazel never feels particularly one-sided. Two compelling story lines for two compelling characters.--Keefe, Karen Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

British author Bannister's well-constructed sequel to 2013's Deadly Virtues finds Gabriel Ash, who was once involved in tracking hijacked munitions for national security, still searching for his wife and children, who were kidnapped by Somali pirates four years earlier. A long stay in a psychiatric ward has changed Ash, but it hasn't kept him from pursuing leads to his missing family. Hazel Best, a police constable who befriended Ash in Deadly Virtues, introduces him to Lord Peregrine Byrfield and David Sperrin, who's conducting an archeological survey on Byrfield's estate north of London. When Sperrin unearths a relatively recent crude grave containing a young boy's skeleton, Best declares it a crime scene. Rumors fly, and the subsequent police investigation uncovers secrets that affect both the Sperrin and the Byrfield families. Readers will look forward to seeing more of Bannister's finely drawn leads-fragile but determined Ash and good-hearted, impetuous Best-especially after the shocking cliffhanger ending. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory & Company (U.K.). (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Former British government agent Gabriel Ash and police constable Hazel Best are back in this sequel to Deadly Virtues. Ash pursues a lead that's given him some hope that his sons, who were abducted by Somali pirates, may still be alive, while Best investigates a burial mound at an archaeological site that isn't so ancient. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER 1 STEPHEN GRAVES REMEMBERED the name well enough. But he wouldn't have recognized Gabriel Ash if they'd passed in the street. He'd struck Graves as a big man when they first met: tall, big-boned, powerful of build and of intellect. The man before him now seemed entirely shrunken. He even seemed shorter, thanks to a slight apologetic stoop. Graves ushered him to a chair, quickly, as if afraid he might fall down. But his anxiety was unwarranted. Ash was in better shape than he looked. He was in better shape than he'd been for years. With his visitor safely seated, Graves called his PA and asked for coffee. Ash waited politely, aware that these days his host's time was more important, or certainly more expensive, than his own. Finally Graves overcame his surprise enough to open the conversation. It wasn't difficult to guess why Ash was here--there was only one issue that concerned them both. "I imagine it's the same matter you want to discuss." Ash nodded. Thick black curls fell in his eyes. Graves doubted he'd spent proper money on a haircut since they'd last met. Only the suit was the same, and though clean and pressed, it now hung from Ash's cadaverous frame. "Some things have come up. Queries. I hoped you could cast some light..." Graves didn't interrupt him. The sentence just petered out, as if he'd lost interest in it. The CEO of Bertram Castings took a moment to realize he'd finished. "Yes," he said. Then, keenly, "Yes, of course. Anything. If I can. If there's anything I haven't already told you. But first"--he bit his lip--"can I say how sorry I am about what happened? When I heard ... I couldn't help feeling ... guilty, I suppose. If you hadn't been trying to help us, perhaps ... none of it..." It was his turn to run out of words. Ash smiled. It was an oddly innocent smile for a man of forty, apparently without bitterness. "I was just doing my job. If I hadn't been doing it here, I'd have been doing it somewhere else. The consequences would very probably have been the same." Whether or not it was true, the manufacturer appreciated him saying it. He'd assumed that Ash had been hating his guts for the last four years. It would have been understandable. "Has there been some news?" "No," said Ash quickly. "At least, nothing"--he sought an appropriate adjective--"reliable. But someone said something, in a different context, and he was probably just winding me up, but I didn't feel I could let it go without at least trying to be sure." "Who?" asked Graves, almost holding his breath. "Said what?" "It was a policeman. A senior policeman, who might well have heard things that weren't public knowledge. But who also had a good reason for wanting me to think he could help me." Ash swallowed. "He said--he gave me to understand--that he knew what had happened to my family. And I think--I think --he was saying that my sons are still alive." Graves took a steadying breath and let it out slowly. "That would be wonderful." "Yes, it would," agreed Ash. His voice was gossamer-thin. "If it's true." "You said a policeman?" "But not a very good one." "You mean, you think he's lying?" "He could have lied." Graves frowned. "How can I help? Surely the one you need to be talking to, or someone needs to be talking to, is this policeman--to establish whether he actually knows anything or not." "You're right, of course." Ash nodded. "Unfortunately, he's dead." The man across the desk froze. "Who killed him?" "A criminal. It's a long story," said Ash tiredly. "Before he died, when he was anxious for my help, he said he knew where my boys are. He might have meant where they were buried, but that's not what he said. Before I could ask him to explain, he died in front of me. And now I don't know, and don't know how to find out, if he was telling the truth." It was a much abbreviated version of that desperate day's events, but it was accurate and it was as full an account as a peripheral player like Graves would need. Being a weapons manufacturer didn't make him an expert on gang culture. The whole of the arms trade is so ringed about by regulations that he couldn't have sold weapons to gangsters if he'd wanted to. He was an engineer by training, a businessman by choice, a pen pusher by necessity. The government inspectors cast such long shadows over his trade that he'd once found himself photocopying his wife's birthday card, just in case. "Gabriel, I don't know what to say." The use of his visitor's first name didn't come naturally--they'd never been on first name terms--but it felt more awkward still to call him Mr. Ash when the man had stripped his soul in front of him. "Tell me how you think I can help." Ash smiled again, gratefully. "In all honesty, I'm not sure you can. I just couldn't think where else to go. The thing is, this policeman had been working in Norbold, where I live, for the last eight years. Before that he was up north somewhere. He was never in Africa. If he knew anything about Somali piracy, he heard about it while living and working in England. And that's what he said--that he heard it from a local criminal. In fact, the one who shot him. "And if he really did know something, if it wasn't just a bait he was dangling in front of me, I think that had to be true. I'm pretty sure he didn't get it from an official source. I've been to Whitehall--I still know people there--and what they told me is that they've learned nothing new about my family in the last four years. I believe them. If there'd been anything to report, my old boss would have told me, with or without his minister's approval." Ash had worked for Philip Welbeck for five years. He'd known he was a good boss. He hadn't known how good a friend he was until his world fell apart. Admittedly, Ash had broken Welbeck's nose in a highly public brawl in Parliament Street, and Welbeck had had him committed to a psychiatric institution, but both these acts had long ago been forgiven. Ash had been far from rational when he took a swing at his superior. And Welbeck had been absolutely rational, as cool and clinical as always, and totally focused on the safety of Ash's family, when he called the men in white coats. There was no knowing if Cathy and the boys were still alive when Ash, insane with worry, stormed down to London, demanding to know what was being done to find them. But if they were alive, it was to keep Ash from returning to his job in national security and hunting down those responsible for the hijacking of British-made munitions. This was what he was good at, what he was perhaps better at than anyone else. It had taken the pirates some time to recognize the fact. But when they did, they had moved quickly to neutralize the threat he posed. Holding his family hostage gave them control of Gabriel Ash. After the scene in Parliament Street it was impossible to pretend he hadn't disobeyed Welbeck's instructions by returning to London. All Welbeck could do to salvage the situation was make it clear that Ash wasn't working, on his family's abduction or the acts of piracy that preceded it, because he wasn't fit to work, and quite possibly never would be again. That was then. This was now. Ash couldn't use official channels to pursue the search anymore. This was what he was doing instead: picking up the threads of the investigation that had cost him everything and trying to find out if they still led anywhere. He was grateful Graves had agreed to see him. Ash wanted him to understand that, though he had little in the way of new evidence, he wasn't just raking over the same old coals. "If this policeman was telling the truth, he learned what happened to my family from a Norbold drug dealer. And that means that everyone involved in these hijackings isn't half a world away in Somalia. There's a local dimension. Someone here is involved." "Here?" Graves's eyebrows shot toward his hairline. Although he was no older than Ash, his hair was gray and he kept it clipped short to teach it a lesson. He did spend proper money on haircuts. "Sorry," said Ash hastily, "I don't mean here at Bertrams. I mean here in England. And I found myself wondering--you're going to think I'm crazy," Ash interjected with the painful wryness of someone who knew what it was like to be thought crazy--"if there was any chance that someone you work with could be selling information on your shipments. Not necessarily one of your employees--it could be an auditor or a tax inspector, or someone from Health & Safety, someone who comes and goes without exciting much interest. But someone who has access to your shipping details, so the pirates know when you're sending munitions in their direction, what aircraft you'll be using, and which airfields you'll be putting down at." Graves was obviously taken aback. His company had lost a small fortune in goods hijacked en route to their end users in Africa, but the general understanding had been that that was where the problem lay--in Africa, with the customers' security arrangements. Five times in four years it had happened, and it wasn't just the munitions that had disappeared each time but also the aircraft and the crew. People had died trying to deliver his goods, and the only consolation was that the British police had looked at Bertrams's security protocols and told the CEO there was nothing more he could have done to protect them. Now Gabriel Ash seemed to be telling him something different. "How would I know?" he asked, concerned. "Maybe you wouldn't. Maybe there was nothing to notice. But maybe there was someone who showed just a bit more interest in your shipping arrangements than seemed natural. Who asked where aircraft would be refueled, or which carrier was carrying which shipment, or how crew were recruited. Something like that. Or something quite different, but still not quite what you'd expect. Not quite right." Graves was trying to think, but this had been sprung on him. He'd had a couple of hours' notice that Ash wanted to call, none at all that this was the reason. His face creased with the effort to remember. Finally, regretfully, he shook his head. "I'm sorry, nothing's coming to mind. But can I have some time to think about it? I'll go through the records, see who was in the office in the days before each hijacking. See if any pattern emerges. Give me your number. I'll call you if I come up with anything." Ash gave him the number of his new mobile. "Call me anyway. It doesn't need to be a concrete suspicion. If you think of anyone with access to the relevant information, I'll talk to the other firms that lost shipments and see if the same name comes up again." Graves pulled over a notebook and wrote some names and numbers from memory. "Talk to Bob Simpson at Gaskins. I know they lost a shipment of assault rifles not long ago. And Sandy Pierson at Viking. That's Ms. Pierson, incidentally," he added with a nervous grin, "don't get off on the wrong foot by asking for Mr. Pierson. They've both become involved since you..." Another unfinished sentence. This time the missing words were Went doolally. Ash nodded his thanks and folded the paper carefully into his breast pocket. "I suppose it's a pretty small world, arms manufacture--that you all know one another?" "In some ways," agreed Graves. "In others, of course, it's global. But anyone in the industry will help you if they can. We need to get on top of these hijackings. Somali pirates are making a quarter of the world almost a no-go area for weapons exports." "Which begs the question why you continue selling a sensitive product to such a volatile region." Graves shrugged. "Because it's our business. Because volatile regions are where arms are needed. We couldn't stay solvent by selling what we make to the Isle of Man. And then, don't we have an obligation to support Third World countries that are trying to make a go of the democratic model? They wouldn't get far if all the demagogues and tyrants around them could march over their undefended borders." It was a valid point. Besides, Ash wasn't here to do battle with the arms industry. His mission was much more tightly focused than that. "I need to be candid with you, Mr. Graves. Tackling piracy against British citizens, British carriers, and British goods is the job of the British government. It used to be my job, but it isn't anymore. My only interest now is in finding out what happened to my wife and my sons. "They disappeared because, when I was part of the government investigation, I got close enough to the pirates to worry them." Ash's deep, dark eyes were hot with the memory: at how clever he'd been, and how stupid. "For four years I believed my family were dead. Now there seems just a small chance that they aren't--that if I can work it out, I can find them. I may be fooling myself. But I don't want to mislead you. If finding my family means destroying these people--in Somalia, in England, wherever they are--then I will if I can. But that's not my priority. If you help me, you have to understand that I may not be able to help you much in return. If the pirates offer to buy my silence with the only currency I'm interested in, nothing--not honor, not duty, nothing --will stop me from taking it. Nothing matters to me as much as finding my wife and sons." "I understand that," said Graves, rising and offering his hand. "Bertrams will help in any way we can." Copyright © 2014 by Jo Bannister Excerpted from Perfect Sins by Jo Bannister All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.