Sunday 28 July 2019



Saying farewell to the dark side doesn't mean the dark side wants rid of you. And I was about to be reminded of that fact.

1970, St Pauls, Bristol. A new decade, and JT Ellington is determined it will be a quiet one. He's stepped away from the private-eye game to scratch a living, respectable at last, as a school caretaker.

Still his nights are full of torment - guilt and ghosts that no prayers will banish but it's not until the past comes calling in the unwelcome form of Superintendent Fletcher that JT's resolve is truly tested.

Fletcher has a job for JT - and the hard-nosed cop can't be refused. A young man, Nikhil Suresh, has disappeared hours before his wedding; rumours abound and his family is distraught. JT is to investigate.

With what feels like blood money in his pocket, JT is plunged deep into a demi-monde of vice, violence and forbidden passion. An extraordinary, malevolent enemy is intent on destroying him. Now - seeking survival and redemption - JT must play as dirty and dangerous as those who want him dead.

A Sinner's Prayer, if the author's afterword is to be believed will be the last book in his J.T. Ellington series. Ellington is a Barbadian born sometime PI, living in Bristol in the late 60s, early 70s. Sounds like my kind of series with a new-to-me setting both in location and the time period when the events in the book occur. My only disappointment being that I didn't have the earlier books on my radar before reading this one. That said while events from Ellington's past and his troubled history are referenced throughout the course of this one, the author makes the book work well on it's own. I didn't feel like I was excluded from getting to know the main man.

A dispute at his school care-taking job leaves J.T. open to some less than subtle persuasion by the police. They want his assistance in asking around regarding the disappearance of a young Indian man' with Ellington hopefully having greater access to the immigrant communities than the police will ever have. Inevitably one things leads to another.

Bristol, St. Paul's, the West Indian community, family - past and present, loss, home life, bars, rum, culture, friendships, enemies, history, secrets, racism, a wedding, a disappearance, a hidden life, powerful acquaintances, homosexuality, a nightclub catering for a minority, a murder victim, another corpse, the council house, a bribe, an attempt to steer the investigation, blackmail, a fledgling romance....... and then the wheels come off and the initial enquiry morphs into a vicious war between a couple of rival criminal organisations that previously co-existed, with a reliance on extended family and one of Bristol's leading gangsters to ensure J.T.'s survival.

There's lots I liked about this one. The main character is sympathetically portrayed. He's troubled and still trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife and daughter. He has an adopted daughter that he cares for dearly. He reveres his lost family and takes comfort from their visits to him in his dreams, but he's a practical man and manages to live in the present. He is prepared to break the law to protect himself and the ones he cares about, but feels guilty for necessarily indulging his dark side. He has layers - intelligence, a conscience, regrets, passion, love and an all-round amiability.

I enjoyed the time frame of the novel and the peek inside an immigrant community in a foreign land. Insults, suspicion, outright hostility and casual racism are prevalent and a timely reminder of when society was less enlightened and welcoming towards newcomers. I'm a child of the 60s and I think a lot of the attitudes on display are a thing of the past, though undoubtedly the EU membership referendum and the fall-out from it does seem to have re-awakened some viler traits in today's society.

I believed in the story and the evolution of the plot which kind of takes us far away from the start point of the novel, though in the end we get answers to the disappearance of the young man. There's pace to the story, not at a break neck speed, but with enough legs to maintain interest and propel the story forward. Plenty of action, enough to satisfy me - a beating or two, with some less than gentle interrogations, some gun play and death, but all in the context of the story, never gratuitous. And some lighter reflective moments.... love, family, friendship, loyalty, affection, care, romance,

Lots to like

4.5 from 5

M.P. Wright's earlier series books are Heartman, All Through the Night and Restless Coffins.
I hope to catch up with some, if not all of them.

Read - July, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 336
Source - review copy from Black and White Publishing
Format - paperback


  1. This might be one of those cases where our tastes run along similar lines, Col. I do like the context and time frame, and J.T. sounds like a very interesting character. It sounds as though the pacing and timing work well, too. I may have to look this series up...

    1. Margot, definitely one where I think our tastes overlap. I hope you can track something down by him.

  2. Ooo, sin-packed Bristol. It was calmer a couple or three decades later, when I was a moderately regular visitor. (Of course, the city's seedy underbelly of violence reared its ugly, er, head once more a couple of years ago, when Ben Stokes and Alex Hales came by . . .)

    This sounds like a first-rate novel, and indeed series. I'll have to go look it out.

    1. Ha, I suppose my first thoughts of Bristol and violence would have been the rioting in the 80s around St Pauls. Not singling this particular city out as they were fairly widespread nationwide. I'd forgotten about the two cricketers.
      I went there a year or two back with my wife and it was very nice.

      I think this one might be up your street.

  3. You're welcome, be sure to pop back and let me know what you thought of the book when you've read it! :-)