Alchemy by Maureen Duffy - review by Lindy Burleigh

Lindy Burleigh

Hard-Boiled History



Fourth Estate 379pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

JADE GREEN, THE would-be hard-boiled heroine of Maureen Due's erudite and entertaining detective- cum- love story, models herself on Raymond Chandler's grizzled, chain-smoking private eye Philip Marlowe, who still sets the standard for private-detective cool. Like Marlowe, she is a wisecracking cynic, a wounded romantic and an idealist in pursuit of justice, who leads a solitary, hand-to-mouth existence. The similarity ends there: Jade is a young, gay woman who can't even master the smoking habit and sits in her office surfing the Internet instead of pulling on her hat and raincoat and going off into the mist. While she constantly invokes Marlowe, she wryly reminds herself that she is a lawyer and not a 'lapsed gumshoe'. She runs her own practice, the ironically named Lost Causes, from her London flat, supplementing her rather meagre income by delivering for the local Chinese takeaway.

Jade turns full-time sleuth when Dr Adrian Gilbert, a lecturer in the history of science at the University of Wessex, asks her to take on his case against the university for unfair dismissal. Dr Gilbert has been bizarrely accused of Satanism by some of his students, and he believes that

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