The Kaleidoscope Man, By Elizabeth Hopkinson

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The Independent Culture

Structured like a thriller, this debut offers a little more than simple ruminations on good and evil. Alison Mannings wakes up one morning to her daughter's screams – her lover, Kevin Todd, left a few days before and now her three dogs have been hanged in the garden. In a state of shock, Alison hires private detective Frank Hargreaves to discover why Kevin killed them. His less obvious task is also to find out for her.

His discoveries are as unpleasant as could be imagined. In more experienced hands, this side of the story might have been judged more subtly. But Hopkinson does a good job of capturing the psychological torment of "not knowing", playing well on the fear of the unknown, and understanding what damage ignorance can do. Her style - refreshing, clear and sparse - is never quite enough to convey the depth of Alison's feelings, but it works best in the moments of shocking revelation when starkness is all you need.

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