Social Studies

June 26, 1998

WHERE THERE IS EVIL. By Sandra Brown. 312pp. Macmillan. Pounds 16.99. - 0 333 72185 3.

In 1992, Sandra Brown found herself suddenly faced with the claim that her father was a child murderer. Brown had always been afraid of her father. She writes that during her childhood, in the industrial town of Coatbridge near Glasgow, he physically abused her, flaunted his affairs with adult women in front of her and sexually assaulted her friends. Indeed, he was actually convicted of raping her thirteen-year-old babysitter. For twenty-seven years, Brown avoided him. Then, at a family reunion in 1992, he announced that his own father had always believed him to be responsible for the disappearance in 1957, of Moira, an eleven-year-old local girl. He had been the last person to see Moira, whose body was never found. Since then, Brown has campaigned to have her father prosecuted for Moira's murder as well as for sexually abusing her cousins when they were children. It appears that the original police investigation was botched. "If the police had spoken to me at the time . . . I would have let them know that he was more than capable of harming young children", Brown comments bitterly. But no new charges have been brought against her father. Where There Is Evil is her last attempt to get him convicted.

The story is delivered with the emphatic, pedestrian determination of a woman who has spent years writing to MPs on the subject. Brown has one point to make and she stresses it in her title with the biblical quotation:

"Where there is evil, cast it out." Brown insists that, by failing to prosecute her father, the modern criminal-justice system is repeating this pattern of silence and that more children will suffer as a consequence. The point is valuable, but this book is padded out with unrevealing detail and cliche. Brown, who regrettably decided against using a ghostwriter, uses the same bland tone throughout her book and consequently the more dramatic elements of the story fall flat. JS

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