Written by David Foster — It is London, late in 1940. A Royal Navy sailor, on the last night of his leave is having a quiet pint in a pub. His wife is in bed at home and their twin baby sons are tucked up in their cot in the cupboard under the stairs. When the pub chatter is silenced by two huge explosions, the sailor rushes homeward, to find that his house and those alongside it have been flattened by stray bombs from Luftwaffe aircraft heading for the docks. When the smoke and dust have cleared, Peter Walker discovers that his wife is dead but the babies are, miraculously, none the worse for wear.
There is no option other than to give the two boys up for adoption. Neither he nor his dead wife Ruby has any other family, and so the sailor rejoins his ship once more and sails away to war. Thus begins an intriguing drama of hidden identity, blackmail and murder.
It transpires that the two boys, effectively orphaned, meet with very different fates. John is adopted by an American couple who take the baby back to the States where he receives the best upbringing and education that money can buy. Harry, on the other hand, is not so lucky. For some reason, no-one wants him and he spends his youth in and out of various orphanages and foster homes until he’s old enough to make his own way. His own way sadly never amounts to much, and we meet him in his early 60s, unemployed and living in a London flat which is as unkempt and threadbare as he is. Long lost brother John Forrest has a very different life as a wealthy and widely respected lawyer in New York.
Harry Walker has two sons of his own. Kevin is a mild-mannered and studious college lecturer, and Dave is a petty criminal and fringe player in the the drug scene of suburban London. John Forrest also has a son – John Junior, widely known as Jack. Jack and his wife Pamela have political ambitions, and they are close to attracting big-money backers for a run at the Senate, and possibly an even greater prize.
One evening, while Harry Walker is outside in the street helping son Dave pack his van with a consignment of dodgy goods, a car drives by and shots ring out. Harry is left dead on the pavement. What then unfolds is a complex whodunnit where we learn along the way that someone from the UK has contacted the Forrest family in New York to blackmail them. What if Senator Jack Forrest were to be embarrassed by his transatlantic cousins? Is Pamela Forrest a modern-day Lady Macbeth? Is Dave Walker really bright enough to engineer such a sophisticated blackmail scam?
Death Reveals all is engaging without being totally riveting. I did wonder about the effectiveness of the brief prologue – the book opens with a present day funeral. I confess that by the time I got to the end of the book – 400 pages or so later – I had forgotten about it. Only after re-reading various sections for this review did it make sense. That said, the basic plot is a fascinating one, and it does the book no harm that both Kevin Walker and his undiscovered cousin Jack are amenable and decent characters.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars