Fade to Grey is one of those crime novels with a dark side, but it’s not too heavy. Enough realism and gritty detail to get your teeth into but plenty of lighter moments too, and a few laughs along the way. At the centre of the story is Gethin Grey and the Last Resort Legals team and they are a likeable, eclectic bunch; fun to spend some time with. Gethin and his gang are in the business of redressing miscarriages of justice, they are a kind of… well… last resort. If they can find grounds for an appeal, or even a technicality for that matter, it’s game on. If this first novel is anything to go by there will be plenty of excitement and entertainment as the series progresses.

Last Resorts Legals have had a thin year, Gethin Grey has let the ball drop and there just doesn’t seem to be much work out there that pays well. Just because the firm is in the business of lost causes does not mean it’s a charity. So, Gethin can’t believe his luck when a big new case, which promises plenty of cash, drops right in his lap. Ismael Mohammed, now known as Izma M, author and wanna be Malcolm X, is to appeal his conviction. He has spent his time in jail converting to Islam, reforming and becoming a role model for others. To be fair, he has always denied committing murder and there never was much in the way of direct evidence against Izma M. Only at the time, Izma M was Tyrell Hanson, drug dealer, minor gangster, black man and general pain in the arse for the police. Now he’s a Sufi Muslim, a champion for human rights and an activist against racism.

Back then, Tyrell Hanson met a pretty white girl, Hannah Gold, in a Bristol pub called the Beer Barge. They hit it off, the CCTV showed them leaving together, walking down the Avon Gorge towards Clifton Downs – they kiss, they have sex. Tyrell says they then parted company and went their separate ways. The problem is next morning Hannah is found floating in the river Avon and the autopsy establishes that she’s had sex recently, the man’s DNA is on record… yep… Tyrell Hanson. Matters are made worse by the fact that Tyrell has a gun on him when he’s arrested, although the girl wasn’t shot, the judge and the jury take that badly.

That was 2005, so Izma M has now spent ten years in jail, he’s got celebrity status, and now he has a champion with the money to fund Last Resort Legals. Amelia Laverne, actress and activist, wants to see an appeal. Gethin and his team are only too happy to ride the gravy train. Fade to Grey has some minor Bristol villains, a bent cop, and a big fat secret with Gethin on the trail. What follows is a whole heap of trouble. Did I mention it all starts in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus, in 2001, Danny wants his dad to fund a record label but his dad is scared of something, distracted. Danny’s life is about to change – irrevocably!

John Lincoln is the transparent pen name of John Williams, Welsh author, critic and festival organiser. Music is never far from his heart, in Fade to Grey, Danny wants a record label, Bex is an office manager by day and tribute act by night, and Gethin doesn’t go anywhere without his soundtrack. It all helps to set the tone of the novel and add a little flavour.

Gethin Grey and the Last Resort Legals team are a wonderfully eclectic mix of characters; there’s ex-con Deano, part-time investigator, Lee, right-hand woman and investigator and Bex, the office manager – all with their own stories. Amelia Laverne, the actress is a woman with baggage and a definite need to interfere, not an easy client. The characters are the most endearing aspect of the novel. It’s not hard to see them cropping up in a few more adventures. To add to his woes, Gethin has a pretty complicated domestic situation too. His wife, Cat, is a psychologist, she knows how to twist an argument; her infidelity, his gambling, their mutual neglect of each other, and Gethin’s relationship to ‘the Judge’, his father, all feature.

Work and play are complicated for Gethin, both are in danger of extinction unless he gets his act together. A couple of nice comic touches soften the mood but when followed by something serious they can catch you out. The shoeless chase is a memorable moment, as is Bex as Kate Bush.

The did he do it/didn’t he do it mystery is intriguing and there’s a nice twist at the end. Fade to Grey also makes a couple of serious point about miscarriage of justice and the bias and prejudice in the system. The Cardiff and Bristol settings are well judged and the dialogue is spot on. A lot of fun.

Paul Burke 4/3

Fade to Grey by John Lincoln
No Exit Press 9780857302892 pbk Feb 2019