Well, after a hiatus that extended somewhat longer than I anticipated, I’m back. I’m actually in hospital at the moment, in the quite wonderful National Spinal Injury Unit in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, in Glasgow. I’ve been here for three and a half months, and anticipate being here probably a couple more months. You’d think hospital would be an ideal place to catch up on your reading, but my concentration isn’t as consistently good as usual – although it is now dramatically improving. I’ll be posting reviews of some of the books I’ve read as soon as I can type them up – hospital is bizarrely tiring! Now, to the book…
Sarah Flint is the latest in quite a line of crime writers who were once “on the job” themselves. Not that that’s an automatic recommendation – the main qualification for writing a gripping police procedural is not authenticity (although naturally that helps.) No, to my mind, anyway, it’s being able to spin a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining yarn; one that keeps the reader guessing until the final reveal.
I’m happy to report that the first book in the DC Charlie Stafford series ticks all the boxes. It’s original, realistic, and as for whodunnit…well, at one point or another, I’d pretty much blamed everyone, bar the actual protagonist.
DC Charlie Stafford is also a likeable central character. She’s somewhat shambolic when it comes to presenting the present-day slick, media-friendly look to the world, with hair that sticks up everywhere, and a tendency for getting distracted by criminals on the way to work and appearing looking as though she’s been dragged through a hedge backwards. But she’s tenacious, and worships her boss, DI Geoffrey Hunter (although naturally, stubborn Charlie attempts to hide it.) She works in the Community Support Unit, which is described as, “the first stop for all budding CID officers.” They deal with crimes involving domestic violence, and crimes connected to race/faith/sexual orientation/disability. The unit’s involvement in the big case featuring in this book comes about due to the disappearance of a mother and her son. The reason for their involvement is because there had previously been allegations of domestic abuse made against her husband – could he be responsible for the disappearance of his wife and one of his two sons? His reaction certainly looks suspicious – he wastes no time at all in clearing out all trace of her, as well as scrubbing the house clean, making it impossible to judge whether she’s left of her own volition, or been the victim of a crime, as well as destroying any DNA evidence.
Well, Keith Hubbard’s certainly a nasty piece of work, as Charlie personally discovers, but when another mother-and-child pairing disappears they have to widen their investigation – while not dismissing Hubbard entirely. And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say there are more victims as the book proceeds.
A prominent and highly respected lawyer – the sort that’s a bane to coppers – gets mixed up in their investigation, intriguing me still further. There’s also a somewhat unusual love interest for Charlie – a homeless ex-soldier who suffers from problems associated with leaving the army: PTSD, alcohol abuse, and other such problems often associated with adjusting to life in the less regimented Civvy Street. He’s a good soul, with a soft spot for Charlie, particularly after one incident they both get caught up in. He makes a refreshing change from the more conventional love interests in police procedurals (very often, it’s colleagues.)
There’s ample red herrings, and excellent story development. This one will definitely keep you reading until the final page. A book is really having to grab me for me at the moment for me to get through it. Mummy’s Favourite managed to do that, and I look forward to hearing more about DC Charlie Stafford. Sarah Flint could be a name to look out for.
With thanks to Head Of Zeus for my copy of the book, which did not influence my review.
BLURB: He’s watching… He’s waiting… Who’s next?
Buried in a woodland grave are a mother and her child. One is alive. One is dead.
DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford is assigned by her boss, DI Geoffrey Hunter to assist with the missing persons investigation.
As more pairs go missing, the pressure mounts. Leads are going cold. Suspects are identified but have they got the right person?
Can Charlie stop the sadistic killer whose only wish is to punish those he deems to have committed a wrong. Or will she herself unwittingly become a victim.
A gripping, heart-stopping crime thriller, introducing new series character DC Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Stafford of London Metropolitan Police.