Fresh out of Cambridge University and with the world at her feet, Jenny Robertson leaves the UK for a teaching job in Iran in the days before the revolution, where she makes new friends and begins to learn about her place in the world. There she meets the charismatic, confident and rather dashing Spanish diplomat Juan Miguel Ochoa, and the two fall madly and deeply in love. They are soon wed in Tehran before they are forced to flee the country as the Shah loses his grip on power.
Juan’s work takes him all over the world in the years and decades that follow, with Jenny faithfully following her husband every step of the way. They land in Buenos Aires and witness the build-up to and fall out from the Falklands War, and spend time in London, Tel Aviv, and Panama. They are living in the United States of America when the horrors of the September 11 attacks unfold. They meet Fidel Castro in Cuba. It soon becomes clear that there is slightly more to Juan’s work than he has been letting on, and Jenny finds herself drawn deeper into his world of global political intrigue.
The story is told through Jenny’s reflections, and far from just capturing these grandiose moments, James G. Skinner succeeds in weaving these events into the wider fabric of the couple’s lives. Day-to-day events like shopping trips, beach excursions and dining out are all beautifully detailed, and it’s these mundane, everyday details that help to immerse the reader as much as the moments of high drama. It is a really personal way to construct the story, and it helps to build a genuine connection with Jenny and Juan, particularly as the specter of Alzheimer’s disease rears its ugly head in the final third of the story (the book itself is dedicated to the worldwide Alzheimer Association).
The couple’s wider family exist on the periphery but are never explored in any real detail, which is slightly problematic in the parts of the tale where they are involved, but it’s a relatively minor gripe. Of far greater concern is the lax editing the book has received – regrettably, there are a number of typos and other errors throughout the text, which greatly detracts from the overall quality of the work. Still, the ending packs a real emotional gut punch and is skillfully free of cliché, and despite its careless editing, WHEN A CONSCIENCE KNOCKS is still a deeply enjoyable and rewarding adventure.
James G. Skinner’s WHEN A CONSCIENCE KNOCKS is a skillfully woven and engaging tale of romance set against a backdrop of global political intrigue and deep personal tragedy.
~Joseph Sharratt for IndieReader