Angie Fortwell and her husband John moved from London to an isolated farm two decades ago – between the bed and breakfast (that caters to ramblers), the leasing of land to a chemical waste disposal company, and John’s salary from the company to maintain the underground storage tanks they scrape by but are far from comfortable. When one of the tanks explodes, killing John and contaminating the farm with benzine, rending it uninhabitable, Angie sues.
Trish Maguire takes over as QC when her superior and mentor, Anthony, is unexpectedly hospitalised. It’s her first case, and though nobody expects them to win she takes it seriously. But promotion has its own complications (in the form of a colleague pissed about her promotion ahead of him), and things aren’t exactly quiet on the domestic front (in the form of an unsuitable friend edging his way into her teen half-brother David’s life). At least as pressing is Trish’s certainty that there’s something a little peculiar about Angie’s support team, who are almost stereotypes of ecology champions but who seem, surprisingly, to be backed by an influential lawyer.
I was tempted to write that character development, though robust, takes a back seat to plot in Poisoned Mind, but on reflection that’s not accurate – we learn more about Trish’s history, her partner George’s family, and Anthony. Though Angie and her relationship with her isolating husband and her long-estranged son are explored in some depth, the strongest characterisation involves Jay, a boy from a disrupted and disadvantaged background who befriends David and exposes him to pressures and tensions not previously experienced. All this is woven into a plot that intriguingly twists and turns around themes of management and disposal of waste, profit versus environmental concerns, and family conflict. Satisfying, absorbing and generally excellent - Alex