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    Review of DOUBLE JEOPARDY by Bill James

    Severn House, 2002

    Scout Pethor and Matthew Gain have been cleared of the murder of beautiful black co-ed Angela Sabat--and the British police are intent to discover why, and to find a scapegoat. Because they believe Pethor and Gain are guilty as sin, and that only a police coverup could have brought about their acquittal. Vic Othen, Kerry Lake's sometimes lover, looks to be an appropriate fall guy. He did, after all, discover the body acting on a tip. Couldn't he have been called in to hide the evidence? Who else but the killers would have known where to send him?

    Kerry lives in a world where everyone seems to know everyone else's secrets. Her love affair with Vic, even her meeting with Pethor's brother become common knowledge among Pethor's criminal gang, his jailed competitor, her police chief, and even the victim's mother--a journalist intent on discovering the truth and just maybe creating a bit of justice. The British courts deny that justice is possible. Gain and Pethor can't be tried again under the rules of double jeopardy. But that doesn't mean that their lives need be pleasant. Unfortunately, they seem just smart enough to be able to stay ahead of justice, just as they've stayed ahead of the law.

    Author Bill James (see more reviews of mysteries by James) writes powerfully about the moral ambiguities and small victories of the modern police. In this short but complex novel, everyone is working an angle, everyone has more than one hidden agenda, and nothing is what it seems. Even when Kerry assures herself that she wouldn't continue to support Vic if she knew him corrupt, there is always a question mark at the end of her question. When the law holds a killer innocent, what moral rules can or should apply?

    As with James's Harpur and Iles novels, DOUBLE JEOPARDY deals with shades of gray. Killing a black woman is worse than beating one up. Giving a free ride to a criminal in prison might be better than a free ride to a killer who is free. And taking a bribe might not be so bad if the cop doing the taking doesn't really deliver what she promised. DOUBLE JEOPARDY left me feeling disturbed, dirty, and entertained.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 1/09/03

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