Is the victim also a perp? So think the coppers in this latest of Ashford’s acrid blind-justice fables.
Because the guard is away from his station, nobody sees Gavin Penfold, a computer-network architect with Counties Bank, when he leaves work late one evening. And nobody is around when he’s abducted by a gang of criminals, bound and blindfolded, and hustled back into his Jaguar. The only witness happens by just in time to identify the car that’s swerved out of control and run down a woman, seriously injuring her. Whatever their plan was, it’s clearly been foiled, and the kidnappers pour Scotch into Penfold, prop him up in the driver’s seat, and leave him to take the blame for the hit-and-run. The ruse works perfectly, and despite the unwavering support of his wife and the best efforts of his barrister, Penfold finds precious little credence among the county CID, most of whom would rather shove the most likely suspect into jail than spend the time and resources checking out his wild story. Tried and convicted, he’s sentenced to five years in prison. Justice, if it’s to be had at all, will have to arrive from an unexpected quarter.
And that’s the rub. Ashford (A Truthful Injustice, 2002, etc.) does such an expert job of boxing in his harried hero that there’s only one possible ray of light, and the tale winds up with all-too-little surprise, though with considerable moral gratification.