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Bank of the Black Sheep

by Robert Lewis

Robin Llywelyn wakes up with his right hand cuffed to a hospice bed and a cannula dripping morphine into his left. He has no memory at all of who he is or what he has done to deserve the close attention of the Law. Days and nights sail by and the light and dark behind the curtains is a slow but steady strobe.

A visit from a bent DI of the Avon CID does nothing to help: pointing to the drip he says: "Junkies at St. Pauls would go crazy for a bag of that stuff". And Llywelyn's doctor, a turbaned and bearded Sikh, explains politely that no, there is no mistake. Robin has cancer.

Llywelyn discovers that he has no wallet, no watch, no phone, no keys, no credit cards, no cash and no friendly visitors who care about him. But at least the Crown decides that it is in the greater public interest not to prosecute (it seems he has helped to reclaim most of the money). He is no longer hand-cuffed to the bed, and the morphine drip has been removed. After a very unpleasant bout of withdrawal he is told that his memory may return, and he hopes he will turn out to have been a good person. He continues to cling to this hope even after he steals forty pounds from an old faux-leather handbag belonging to another inmate (admittedly comatose) and slopes off to the seediest pub he can find. Walking into it is like going home. But he is still surprised when he finds himself caught up in a very promising scam.

Readers may feel embarrassed when they burst out laughing at Robert Lewis' very black humour: BANK OF THE BLACK SHEEP has that effect. It is a very fast moving, superbly well plotted bleak Welsh Noir, misanthropic and sad, but with brilliant dialogue and extremely funny jokes. This is Lewis' third novel. Let's hope it will not be the last we shall see of Llywelyn in his race against the reaper.

Paula McMaster

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Peter Davidson
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