A Sinner’s Prayer

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Member Reviews

A SINNER’S PRAYER by M. P. Wright is the fourth and, at least in the foreseeable future, the last book in the JT Ellington historical mystery series. I believe it would have been beneficial to have read the first three books in advance, but it worked well as a standalone novel.

JT was born in Barbados, but moved with some of his family to St Pauls, Bristol in the 1960’s.  He was a policeman in Barbados, but could not get work as one in England so he became a private detective. By 1970, he changed careers and became a primary school assistant caretaker. Superintendent Fletcher convinces JT to find a young man, Nikhil Suresh, who has disappeared a few hours before his wedding. Otherwise, he will face theft charges.

The author does a great job of letting us see and feel JT’s emotions. We also get the opportunity to meet several of his relatives and friends during the course of the investigation.  Intolerance and racism during this time is very evident and made me think of how far we have and have not come in 2019.

This book weaves a number of themes and events into the plot including murder, assault, violence, passion, family, friends, adoption, intolerance, racism and political corruption. It has plenty of action as well as some introspection by the main character.

While this is the only book I have read by M.P. Wright, I would like to check out more of his books. This book is not lighthearted, but it is worth reading.

Many thanks to Black & White Publishing, M. P. Wright and Net Galley for a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
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A really good interesting story. I liked the pace of the story and the writing style. This is the first book that I have read in this series and I definitely want to read the rest. 

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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This is such a consistently excellent series that I would say from the outset it is an incredibly valuable use of your time to backtrack and begin from the beginning if you get the opportunity : Heartman, All Through The Night and Restless Coffins.  However, if you’re diving in to this one, The Sinner’s Prayer first, have no fear as you will soon become very well acquainted with Mr J. T. Ellington, his turbulent past and the very real dangers that threaten his present. Transporting us to Bristol in the 1970s, with an impeccable realisation of the city and the seamless inclusion of cultural and social references to root us firmly in this period, Wright leads us into a false of security with Ellington ( an ex colonial police officer hailing from Barbados) leading a quiet life as a school caretaker and caring for his adopted daughter, but trouble swiftly arrives on Ellington’s doorstep, and his natural impulse as an ex police officer and a ‘resting’ private investigator takes a hold when his newly acquired peace is threatened.

What defines Ellington as a character is his unerring sense of morality, the sense of atonement he carries from the dark events of his past, and his general compulsion to ‘do the right thing’ and give comfort to those that innocent victims leave in mourning. Sometimes his heightened sense of morality leads to him acting in ways slightly contrary to the law, but throughout the books there is just this resonance of goodness about him, whatever ends may justify the means. Of all the crime series I’ve read this is one of the few where I have a real picture of Ellington in my head, as due to the vividness of Wright’s characterisation I instinctively picture how Ellington dresses, moves and hear the cadence and rhythm of his speech. I hesitate to use the word flawless, but if any budding writer wants to know how to convey a character with absolute clarity to their reader, using relatively slight descriptions and implied characteristics that imprint on the reader’s imagination, this is a good place to start. Just to linger on characterisation for a little longer, this aptitude for an incredibly visual realisation of his central character is also extended to Ellington’s family, friends and criminal acquaintances, and tempted as I am to rattle on about Ellington’s colourful, criminal, unscrupulous and violent gangster cousin Vic, I will contain myself. I adore Vic, despite his borderline psychopathy, and the fact that the minute he enters the fray, you know that the danger and violence will be ramped up to the nth degree…

Once again, the storyline is tightly plotted, weaving in echoes of past events and people previously encountered as Ellington finds himself in the crosshairs of a powerful and influential local figure. Tasked with tracking down those responsible for two particularly insidious murders, Ellington faces a tricky task to discover who is be trusted or not, and how this case could be the dangerous he has faced to date. By engaging us so comprehensively with his characters, the twists, turns and inherent dangers of Ellington’s quest, become totally consuming as you feel very invested in him, and his less than honest associates. There are a more than a few unexpected twists in the narratives, and one demise of a character was followed by an audible gasp from me. On a bus. Full of people. In the course of Ellington’s investigation, outside of keeping up the necessary pace of the story, you are given space as a reader to think about and absorb some of the wider issues that Wright brings to the narrative, so it’s an incredibly satisfying blend of thriller and social and cultural observation.

I’m actually writing this review with a slight sense of loss hanging over me, as it would appear that this series is being put to bed for a while, with M. P. Wright stating that he wanted to deliver a sense of peace to Ellington and his kinfolk at the close of the series. All well and good, but by heck, does he put some of  them through an emotional and violent wringer first, once again proving the author’s prowess at plot, pace, characterisation, and his absolute ability to capture the zeitgeist of the period that he sets this series within. I can honestly say that I have never experienced a dip in the pure readability of all the previous books, and The Sinner’s Prayer is no exception to the rule, completely mirroring the obviously very high standard of writing that this author consistently produces. Absolutely recommended, and do bear in mind my advice to read all of the series. You won’t regret it…
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Wow, what a book! First time I have come across either this author or the hero in the book sad to read that there is not going to be anymore from this storyline. I was spellbound from the start and the story had me gripped in the fast pace. The Bristol West Indian community references all came across as true to life and an insight to just what that community has to endure at time caused by racism.
I have now got to get hold of the first three books in the series.
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A Sinner's Prayer is the forth and, sadly, final book in the JT Ellington series, and I am left slightly bereft and already feel the hole left behind. Each instalment can be read on its own without issue. Set in 1970s Bristol JT has taken leave of his former job as an enquiry agent to tend to family, but Superintendent Fletcher soon calls on him to help investigate the suspicious disappearance of Nikhil Suresh. However, what he finds is a conspiracy as deep as it could possibly go, and he very quickly realises that his life is in danger as an enemy hiding in plain sight is intent on destroying him once and for all. Can he hold it together and watch his six whilst discovering the truth and bring closure to Suresh's loved ones in the process or will he die trying?

This book explores some very dark and seedy themes and held my interest from start to finish. It's well written and as highly entertaining as the previous three, but there is an extra underlying tension throughout as you have no idea what to expect given it's the last instalment. There are twists and turns, peaks and troughs all along the journey and JT knows he is in over his head. Our walk through the violent, gangster-infested Bristolian underworld is an eye-opener and holds plenty of action, bodies and sheer terror which is seemingly reflective of the times and links both 70s race relations and current discourse on the Windrush scandal. A superb series and one I will definitely miss. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Black & White Publishing for an ARC.
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Once again i would like to thank the Author Publishers and NetGalley for providing a kindle version of this copy to read and honestly review.
1970, St Pauls, Bristol. A new decade, and JT Ellington is determined it will be a quiet one. He's stepped away from the private-eye game to scratch a living, respectable at last, as a school caretaker.
Still his nights are full of torment - guilt and ghosts that no prayers will banish but it's not until the past comes calling in the unwelcome form of Superintendent Fletcher that JT's resolve is truly tested.
Fletcher has a job for JT - and the hard-nosed cop can't be refused. A young man, Nikhil Suresh, has disappeared hours before his wedding; rumours abound and his family is distraught. JT is to investigate. 
With what feels like blood money in his pocket, JT is plunged deep into a demi-monde of vice, violence and forbidden passion. An extraordinary, malevolent enemy is intent on destroying him. Now - seeking survival and redemption - JT must play as dirty and dangerous as those who want him dead.
So states the publishers 'Blurb' about this quality read now for my personal thoughts on this dark threatening tale.
This is the fourth book in the Joseph Tremaine Ellington series and according to the Authors acknowledgements the last for the forseeable future. First question as this is the first book i have read by this Author is does it work as a standalone novel, yes but there are numerous references and characters from earlier books, certainly far more than i would usually expect but that did not spoil my enjoyment of this story, no on the contrary it just raised my interest in hunting down copies of the previous books.
This is a well written and entertaining read, with engaging characters and a real feel for the time and place, but with a surprising amount of violent action which i for one was certainly not expecting. Our hero tries to work within the law and do the right thing, but accepts that in order to come out ahead, and far more importantly simply stay alive to possibly ride again, he must bend and with the help of a seriously 'Dodgy' cousin ultimately break the law.
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An engrossing and entertaining book, well written and with a fascinating main characters.
I liked the style of writing, how the characters and the plot were developed.
It's the first book I read in this series and had no issue with the plot or the characters.
I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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A Sinner's Prayer is a great mystery and the fourth in this series. This is the first I have read and I will go back and read the others.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Black & White Publishing for an advance copy of A Sinner’s Prayer, the fourth novel to feature Bristol based enquiry agent Joseph “JT” Ellison.

It’s 1970 and JT has abandoned enquiring for a regular job and raising his niece, Chloe until Superintendent Fletcher strong arms him into helping him look into the disappearance of Nikhil Suresh. What he finds leads him into serious danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Sinner’s Prayer which is a tough, violent walk on the seedier side of life. Told in the first person from JT’s point of view the novel encompasses so much more than the investigation as it allows for his experience as an immigrant and a middle aged man. It all evolves organically as it is racism that gets him into the situation in the first place. It’s not pretty and offends my liberal sensibilities but it seems realistic of the times. 

Given that JT is given the task of frequenting the places the police can’t go and he enlists the help of his gangster cousin, Vic, the novel is located in the criminal underworld. It is violent and uncompromising with a high body count and an even higher disregard for human rights and suffering. And yet, it is realistic and compulsive with a strong plot and no end of tense moments. It will not be for everyone but for those of a strong constitution it is a rewarding read.

JT Ellison has a strong, individual voice which resonates. At 49 with his Barbadian police career long over he has a host of regrets which haunt him and a pragmatic approach to both justice and right and wrong. He tries to do the right thing but accepts that there is a cost involved, often the death of others, which gives him nightmares. These dilemmas are closely woven into the narrative giving it an edge many novels lack.

The author states that while he’s not shutting the door entirely on JT Ellison he feels that the series has run its current course. I can fully appreciate that he may want a change but it’s a shame for us readers as this has been an excellent series and A Sinner’s Prayer is another fine addition. I have no hesitation in recommending both it and the entire series as a great read.
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Perhaps authors can not count or readers keep liking the same safe stories. Mark Wright author of the four books based on Joseph ‘JT’Ellington can count on readers devouring each well crafted novel in this Trilogy of 4 books.
This is not flogging a character to milk success but old fashioned storytelling at its very best. It is an author with lots to say and in saying it with craft and style. Since Heartman burst into bookshops as his debut novel, each subsequent book has been different and not just a rehash of fillet of fish and French fries to fool fans of Cod and chips.
Heartman set the bar, a different kind of crime thriller; Mark has been setting new PBs with each new instalment. It is perhaps fitting that in bringing the saga to a premature end in A Sinner’s Prayer we are given a story with echoes of and one closest to Heartman.
Told in the first person, JT relates how his life as a immigrant in late 60’s & early 70’s is determined by the colour of his skin. We discern that fairness and equality are things to aspire to in Britain hopefully in the future, or a later decade, century, millennium. Hopefully, in my lifetime).
Yet, JT is sanguine and resolved to his lot in life. He makes do, gets on with things. He’s loyal, a family ma, yet tortured by the things that made him leave his home island in the Caribbean in the first place.

None of this makes it into the book as a  pure social political statement. It is just weaved into the story, not over egged and highlighted but in clear sight.

This backdrop is not just a fiction but the reality of a Britain I grew up in. I never appreciated because I am white, heterosexual and a male. The author is not preaching to me he is just setting the scene, unpinning the context for these stories and what makes Ellington such a unique ‘hero’.
In this final book. JT is putting food on the table through hard graft as a school caretaker. You learn in part he prefers to work Fridays as his boss is off. Not that he is a slouch but by reader’s assumption that he suffers less grief and direct racism. Even so he runs the gauntlet every working day from the other staff who hold sway and power over him.
He resigns as a matter of principle when he is accused of stealing indirectly.
Within a matter of hours his personal situation deteriorates to the point that a high ranking police officer approaches him to do some dirty work even the coppers can not undertake. Being a former police officer in his past and private detective since coming to Bristol, Ellington finds himself manipulated to work for the police, his community’s natural enemy and whom no black person can trust.
The novel is set up as JT is ‘compelled’ to ‘find’ a missing Asian man who has disappeared ahead of his wedding. 
What no-one expects is thorough investigation. But JT is nothing but resourceful, relentless and fearless in his search for the truth.

Another great story which has moments of great violence and authentic dialogue. Interspersed with the harsh realities of being in a discriminated minority and a terrific sense of time and place. JT Ellington is a complex character who allows us to walk in his skin. Yet although honest, seeing himself a patsy at times we never to see a guy lacking strength of character, saying poor me. He gets on with the cards dealt, the humble guy out to right wrongs and keep his family safe.
We are welcome as his kin and made to feel that character counts more than skin colour, conduct more than status and compassion a better attribute than wealth.
For Mark Wright his work is done. 3 had become 4 with 2 fingers crossed behind his back, saying “ no more. “

At the end of this book, the story is not complete but I for one am delighted this series can be set aside. 
It will enable the author to tackle new projects, fresh ideas. Add depth to his writing with new characters and locations. Write in the third party not through just the troubled eyes of Ellington.

I think Heartman’s ghosts have been exercised for now. Hopefully the same is true for Mark; fiction is not an ideal medium to write on such emotive issues as Race and Extremism. Maybe a non fiction based account,on some of his research into Bristol and the voices of St Paul’s could be fashioned. 

It is him as a crime writer that I am most exited to hear news. I wish him continued success and that with JT4 he will get full recognition for his brave and innovative writing.
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