- Available in: Paperback
Dead Ringer was the first solo book for Joe after Richard’s retirement. At the time of writing the series has ten books in it and this one is Joe’s favourite. Not so much because it was the first written by him alone, but that the story and the plot offered such a challenge for a first person narrator. Halfway through writing this, Joe could not find a way to work out the structure problems and he abandoned first-person and rewrote in third person.
But, although the story delivered the plot, it did not do so to Joe’s satisfaction and he started again in first person and, after many attempts, found a way to make it work and work very sweetly (in his opinion). It is the most intricate plot he has written and, in the end, everything slotted perfectly into place – a rare event, a very rare event in a writer’s life. The book also introduces a new woman in Eddie’s life, Maven Judge.
Maven has become something of a recluse in this world where looks seem to matter so much. She’s a skinny, “plain Jane” who is happy to dedicate herself to her pursuit of the perfect betting software. Mave lives in what she calls The Shack on a cliff away out on the Llyn Peninsula, an area Joe and his wife Margy often visited.
There was no particular inspiration for this book. It was based on another of those “what if?” questions beloved of writers (beloved, at least, when they find an adequate answer). The what if this time was technology-based once again. The rapidity of development in the tech sector offers possibilities that seem endless, especially if imagination is all you need to see a tech idea through to fruition.
On the face if it Dead Ringer is a story of loss and unlikely redemption. The early scenes tell of Eddie’s relationship with Jimmy Sherrick, a jockey from an earlier generation, and one to whom Eddie owes much (Jimmy saved Eddie’s life on the track). Eddie also develops a relationship with Jimmy’s elderly father, Jim, who lives alone in Lambourn. In that relationship there are echoes of what could have been for Eddie had his own father been different.
This book also sees another romantic relationship (of sorts) begin to bloom for Eddie when he seeks the help of a woman who has been pestering him for a while to help with her betting software programme: Maven Judge, a sort of nom de guerre adopted by this unusual woman who has been working alone for years to perfect her software and make her fortune.
The essence of the plot: A trio of apparent suicides of racing people in the beautiful Lambourn valley in south west England baffles Eddie and he refuses to accept the police assumption that each death, accompanied by a suicide note, suggests no crime has been committed.
In trying to sort through the bare clues, Eddie enlists the help of a woman “with a brain the size of the moon”, Maven Judge, a solitary maverick living on a remote Welsh clifftop above Hell’s Mouth bay.
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