The Rev Marcus Kirkwall

(creator: Janet Bettle)

Janet Bettle
The Rev Marcus Kirkwall didn't like wearing his dog collar, preferring "torn jeans and a scruffy leather jacket". He had a "tall, slim body, tanned-looking skin" and piercingly blue eyes. He enjoyed riding his motor bike at speed and driving his Saab convertible. He didn't "look much like a vicar ... Teamwork and diplomacy had never been his forte - truth told, he was bloody awful at both." He doesn't moderate his language either, telling the charge nurse at the hospital where, despite her protests, he discharges himself, "Bugger that".

He had come from a very priviliged background (he was the oldest son of a wealthy Earl), and been educated at Winchester before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where he had taken to busking to raise drinking money. It was then that he had become friendly with the prostitute Jennifer who had gone on to commit suicide. Marcus had never forgiven himself that he had not been able to help her.

A convinced atheist, after 2 years as a despatch rider, he went on to spend 7 years in the navy and it was there that "God found him" at the age of 28. He "suddenly became aware that he was part of a greater thing - a world that was a living organism in itself", so off he went to see the chaplain, and ended up enrolling at a theological college. And that is all we are told about his conversion!

He is now 36 and altogether the least likely clergyman to be found on this site.

Janet Bettle (1963- ) was born in Hong Kong and subsequently lived in Cornwall and London where she made the move from being a university lecturer to studying to become a barrister in 1989. She is now a busy practising barrister, specialising in family law and working in East Anglia. She lives in Colchester with her husband and two children. She published her first crime novel, Unnatural Causes, in 1999. The Confession (reviewed below) is the only one to feature Marcus Kirkwall.

The Confession (2000)
The Confession describes how Marcus Kirkwall walks into Abby Penhaligon's legal clinic with an unusual problem: he has heard a dying man's confession to a murder committed many years before. Having seen another man tried and sentenced for his crime, this man now wanted Marcus to make amends. Re-opening an old murder investigation won't be easy but Abby is ready to help. She is in the last stages of qualifying as a barrister and realises this could be the case to kick-start her career. She could not know her life was to be threatened by an unscrupulous gang of murderous drug smugglers who use an abandoned sunken wreck for nefarious purposes.

The great strength of this book lies in its description of the inner workings (and in-fighting) of chambers and the various court cases in which Abby gets involved. These are convincingly described and full of human interest. The drug smuggling story is fast moving and full of action, but is much less convincing, as is the portrayal of Marcus. There are just too many unlikely events, as when Abby discovers the identity of her unknown father, the ease with which a bomb is planted, and the way that she is eventually rescued.

As so often, the writer is at her best when writing about what may well have been inspired by her own legal experiences, as when she describes Abby's relationship with her pupil master Alex Golightly, who was "exactly the sort of man she loathed - lazy, rude, handed a living on a plate while she had to struggle - yet she had to get him on her side. God, the system stank at times".

However, despite all the improbabilities (Abby even sleeps with one of the murderous villains, not realising who he is), it makes an enjoyable read - and there's a happy ending too.

Most of the internet references to the author refer to her legal work, as on the Trinity Chambers site.

Please sign my GUEST BOOK. All comments, contributions (or corrections) welcomed!


The Confession cover
The bland cover does not do justice to the lively content.
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