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June 07 , 2009

A Crooked Smile


An unknown man is found dead in a rooming house. In his wallet is a creased photograph of a beautiful woman with an intriguingly crooked smile.
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Taylor, a classic private investigator, reckons that this photo is his 'calling card to the past.' The woman's name, he finds, is Anna. But who is she? And where is she?

As he starts his quest, Taylor thinks he knows who his paymaster is. But the further he goes, the more the mysteries deepen. He feels he is walking a high wire without a net.

A succession of deaths punctuate Taylor's search. Someone is very keen to block any information. More and more blood is spilled.

His investigation takes him into all levels of British society: the plutocratic mansions of north London, druggy squalor in east London, the sleazy world of glamour photography. Even death can come gilt-wrapped.

The law is crooked, he discovers. Politics more so. Corruption and blackmail prevail. There is an Italian connection, a Turkish connection, an east European connection. But everything whirls back to a Britain where guns and money rule.

'Within every government,' Taylor is told by a top figure in the London sex trade, 'there are always men whose desire for power is not satisfied by getting elected and reaching high office.' Taylor feels to be sinking in 'a morass of lies.' And death is always around the corner.

This is a fresh-voiced crime novel which deliberately abandons the hackneyed format of the police procedural, with its inevitable forest of police-station politics and its hard-drinking DCI forever worried about his ex-wife and their daughter (seldom their son).

Told with wit and vivid observation of the way we live now, Paul Barker's story tracks Taylor - and, through him, modem Britain - as he seeks the girl with a crooked smile and the eyes of a huntress.
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