`A Game of Proof’, on the face of it for this reviewer, could have promised a dry bone of a read, but it didn’t take Tim Vicary long to dispel that worry. It was soon evident that much hard and serious work had gone into the writing. A deft and subtle hand had plainly been well guided by the clearly sensitive, observant and sympathetic eye of the author, genuinely and effortlessly teasing out a wholly believable and completely gripping story.
In the process, the reader is not simply introduced to actors playing out their roles on a tale’s stage but to real people. The reader very quickly comes to feel just what they feel, and fears what they most genuinely fear for themselves. What happens to them soon becomes more than a criminal case surrounding a crime of murder, or indeed a series of murders. It becomes a fascinating cloth, one made up of the weave of family and friends, of petty criminals and hardworking, but humanly fallible cops. It’s a cloth that comes from a broadloom, one with many threads, each spun in its own individual way,
What makes such a complex tale work so well, and so grippingly, is Tim Vicary’s fluid mastery of the English language. It’s a mastery of the highest order, one that readily shows the reader how so many disparate interweaving threads of personal history can come together so dramatically at the High Court in the ancient city of York. The author carefully weaves just enough of the backgrounds and outlooks of all concerned, from the judge to the section bobby, but concentrates largely on Sarah Newby, a barrister with an unusual past and a more than involving present.
Our protagonist is a Yorkshire lass from one of the least promising districts of Leeds – the Seacroft council estate. Her young life was unremarkable, for someone with such a poor start, but early knocks set Sarah’s determination, and sights on a far grander aspiration. Against the odds, this teenage, single mum climbs to the position of barrister by the time she’s into her thirties. Such drive, though, cannot come without its own penalties, and these too become woven into the growing cloth whose pattern has by then completely engrossed the reader.
There’s only one tiny spot of criticism I could find to level. The only facet that I found a little wanting was in the degree of detail spent on description. Sometimes I regretted not being able to feel the place where the action took place, or how its atmosphere perhaps should play against my skin, or taste through my breath. There was certainly an intimacy with the minds of the characters, but less so with where they placed their feet.
This is not just an excellent crime novel, one packed with so many telling details that the reader begins to wonder if the author is himself of the world he writes about, but is also a fascinating essay on human nature. There are no punches pulled, nor unpalatable facets glossed over. Tim Vicary’s masterful narrative and commendably deep characterisations deliver such a close, but somehow dispassionately objective view, they draw the reader effortlessly into his tale.
It is rare to find a work of any kind that warrants the award of the full five stars, but this is one of those occasions. Not only did Tim Vicary’s words simply dissolve to reveal the story, but that story is in itself totally gripping. And so, with the utmost pleasure I use those five stars fully to recommend this book to you, most highly. You will enjoy it.
Review by Clive S Johnson.