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In The Court’s Hands by Fiona Gartland
‘She is running from her past but it’s her future she should fear the most.’
Beatrice Barrington is a stenographer working in the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin. In her position she gets to witness many trials, all very different but yet all having one thing in common, a criminal action. Beatrice has suffered in her life, with an incident in her past having enormous influence over all the everyday decisions she now makes. Beatrice lives alone and routine is very important to her. When the sun shines she likes to take a break from work and takes her lunch outdoors in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. The 25th of April 2014 was one such sunny day and for Beatrice it was to be the day that her life was to change, yet again, in quite a dramatic manner.
As Beatrice eats her lunch she witnesses a meeting taking place nearby between the defendant of a newsworthy case she is working on and another woman. It causes Beatrice to sit up and take notice but she soon dismisses it and moves on with her day. Later in the day Beatrice is witness to a second, very brief meeting involving a juror in the same case, one that appears to be more than just a coincidence. Beatrice is someone who always plays by the rules and she instinctively feels that something is seriously amiss. She does not want the trial to collapse if she makes a complaint yet she knows she must do something. But before Beatrice can make a final decision, the juror is discovered dead in her own home, seemingly by suicide. Beatrice is not convinced and with her old friend, retired Detective Graham Ingram, she sets off on a very risky journey to uncover the truth.
Beatrice and Graham were in a relationship together many years previously so there is a palpable tension in the air every time they are together. Graham is very sensitive to Beatrice’s past and he is quite protective of her. Together they make discoveries that have far reaching consequences. There is a web of lies and deceit, where the end justifies the means for many of the individuals involved. Beatrice is frightened for her own safety as it soon dawns on her that somebody knows that she has information and that somebody wants her silenced. Graham believes Beatrice and has her back but they are up against an enemy that is willing to do anything to keep them quiet.
In The Court’s Hands is a fast-moving story that switches between Beatrice’s past and present. There were times where I did find myself getting quite frustrated with Beatrice and I did question the probability of some of the actions taken by her and other individuals involved. Beatrice thought she had moved on, that she was now safe from the trauma of years before. She had built up a hard shell to protect herself from ever feeling hurt again but this nightmare, that she currently finds herself trapped in, is bringing memories to the surface that were long buried.
Overall, In The Court’s Hands is a commendable debut with an impressive twist and quite an original story at it’s core. It is clear that Fiona Gartland is extremely familiar with the ways of the courts which brings great authenticity to the story. Fiona Gartland is a writer who brings her own style to the page and is one, I have no doubt, we will hear more of in the future.
(c) Swirl and Thread
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