‘The Echo’ like most Minette Walters novels addresses social issues through a number of brilliantly portrayed characters.
Journalist Michael Deacon has been working on a story about homelessness in London. One of the people who he interviews is Amanda Powell. Amanda discovered the body of a homeless man in her garage. The man, known as Billy Blake, starved to death metres away from a freezer full of food. Amanda paid for his cremation, now she is asking Deacon to help her find out more about the man.
Deacon asks himself – who was Billy Blake and why did he choose to die in the upmarket neighbourhood in which Amanda Powell lives?
Billy squatted in a warehouse with a large group of other homeless men, including a 14 year old boy known as Terry Dalton who is in hiding from institutional care (where he was sexually abused). Deacon takes Terry into his home over Christmas, and this is just one of the misfits that he collects around him for the holidays.
Amanda’s husband vanished 5 years ago after being accused of stealing a large amount of money from his employer. His family don’t believe that he was a thief and believe that Amanda murdered him – but if she did, then who was Billy Blake?
Deacon gradually unravels the complicated circumstances, while dealing with Terry, his own dysfunctional family, a socially isolated colleague, a retired Jewish lawyer, and DS Greg Harrison who just wants to move on from the case.
Minette Walters makes use of letters and newspaper cuttings to help clarify various parts of the story. I’m not sure is this was a help or a hindrance. There was some information that would have been difficult to include in any other way, but the flow of the story was disrupted. I’ve read other Walters books where she has done this more effectively.
The plot was fairly complicated, and ‘The Echo’ is not one of my favourite Minette Walters novels, but I still found the book very enjoyable. The next Minette Walters book that I’m planning to read is ‘The Breaker’.
Book Published 1997