Book review: Death by Dangerous, by Olly Jarvis

Posted on 3rd Mar 2016 in Reviews

Imagine being accused of something heinous and not knowing whether you did it or not, and not being able to trust anyone to help you find out what really happened and why. That’s the situation John Anderson, a leading prosecutor in Manchester chambers, on the verge of taking silk, finds himself in at the start of Olly Jarvis’ novel, Death by Dangerous. Review by Paul Magrath.

Jarvis - Death Dangerous250Anderson wakes in hospital to learn that he has been in a car crash which has resulted in the death of two people, one a child in the other car, the other a passenger in his own. He has no recollection of the event, or even of getting into his car, let alone who this mysterious young Asian woman victim is. People are saying she must have been a hooker. The police seem to have conducted a fairly half-hearted investigation, believing the result (a conviction for causing death by dangerous driving) is as good as in the bag.

His name, once feared and respected as a successful prosecutor, is now mud. His wife disowns him, he can barely speak to his children, and his best friend won’t act as his counsel. Even his own father, a circuit judge with expectations of making the High Court bench, seems to want him to plead guilty and disappear.

The only person who seems interested in helping him is the despised solicitor advocate, Tahir Hussain, who has often defended lowlife criminals against him. But what can Tahir, or his Somalian assistant Adey Tuur, do against the juggernaut of injustice against him?

It’s not often that a courtroom thriller gets all the day to day details as right as this one seems to, while maintaining the pace and energy of a multiple murder mystery. Olly Jarvis is a barrister and knows his subject. The backstabbing world of chambers politics is interspersed with excursions into a criminal demimonde of drug dealing Asian gangsters and savagely predatory paedophiles, but there’s also a breathtaking final twist of spookery, which adds to the air of justified paranoia. In other words, the fact that you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get you, even the ones you least suspect. And yet some surprising ones turn out to be on your side after all. A gripping read – with a couple of loose threads that might be resolved in a sequel?


Death by Dangerous by Olly Jarvis (Matador £7.99 pb / £2.49 eb) is available from Blackwell’sWaterstones and other good bookshops.