- first published 1990, #2 in the Helen West series
- this edition published 2011, by AudioGo
- aka NOT THAT KIND OF PLACE
- available from Audible
- narrator Rula Lenska
- length 7 hours 14 mins
- source: local library
A woman's naked and dead body is found outside the Essex commuter village of Branston. Crown Prosecutor Helen West and the local police discover a world of passion and envy ready to explode under the veneer of village gentility.
Helen West, Crown Prosecutor, and Geoffrey Bailey, police inspector, have moved in together into a new house in the estate that is the commuter village of Branston. Neither of them like their rented accommodation, a stylistically modern house, and it adds to the stresses of them working out their relationship. They never seem to have any time to talk about their feelings either.
Helen is working through the local Crown Prosecutor's office, very different to her city base in London, and Geoffrey is finding his work is far from ideal. Helen is aware that she is making major career sacrifices and Geoffrey seems determined to exclude her from his new life. He also has a new sergeant, female, who is career driven, and hard for Geoffrey to relate to.
The murder investigation provoked by the discovery of the body of the wife of the estate's creator brings both Helen and Bailey into close contact with the locals, many of whom are commuting to work in London, as well as establishing a social pecking order based on their economic status and the quality of their housing. Most have little time to devote to taking notice of what is happening around them.
Apart from the issues of the West/Bailey household, the author uses the novel to explore what is happening in these modern "yuppy" communities, where faux villages give London commuters the impression that they are living in the country. Her analysis of the two teenagers who feature centrally in the novel is stunning.
Many refer to the work of Frances Fyfield as "literary" at the same time as being crime fiction. The first in this series A QUESTION OF GUILT was an Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel in 1990.
Though I enjoyed the story, I didn't find the narration of Rula Lenska easy to listen to, although she did much to embellish her character portrayal. The voice that holds TRIAL BY FIRE together is that of Helen West but the narrator didn't seem to capture that as well as I would have liked.
Nevertheless, well worth reading. My rating: 4.3
Trial by Fire was a major TV film and starred Juliet Stevenson.
I've also reviewed PERFECTLY PURE AND GOOD #2 in Frances Fyfield's Sarah Fortune series.