BLURB: Dawn Prentice was already known to the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit.
The previous summer she had logged a number of calls detailing the harassment she and her severely disabled teenage daughter were undergoing. Now she is dead – stabbed to death whilst Holly Prentice has been left to starve upstairs. DS Ferreira, only recently back serving on the force after being severely injured in the line of duty, had met with Dawn that summer. Was she negligent in not taking Dawn’s accusations more seriously? Did the murderer even know that Holly was helpless upstairs while her mother bled to death?
Whilst Ferreira battles her demons, determined to prove she’s up to the frontline, DI Zigic is drawn into conflict with an official seemingly resolved to hide the truth about one of his main suspects. Can either officer unpick the truth about mother and daughter, and bring their killer to justice?
Back with a bang and her highly-anticipated third crime novel, featuring Zigic and Ferreira of the Hate Crimes Unit in Peterborough, is Eva Dolan. But I don’t have to tell you that, most crime fans will be aware this one’s out on the shelves, if you haven’t bought it already!
Ferreira and Zigic (particularly Ferreira) are still feeling the effects of a nail bomb let off at the end of book two, Tell No Tales. Zigic knows Ferreira well, and, always tough and very volatile, she seems even harder in this book, and he’s not fully convinced she should be signed back on to full duties. Consequently, he’s keeping a close eye on her.
For this book, we’re out of Peterborough and into a seemingly desirable commuter village, Elton. But of course, there’s hate, and so hate crimes, everywhere. A gas leak has pretty much destroyed a cottage, but it’s semi-detached twin’s causing a great deal more concern. In it the fire fighters find the bodies of Dawn Prentice and her daughter Holly, who was paralysed from the neck down after a climbing fall two years previously. Ferreira is already familiar with Dawn – she’d visited her the previous year, when her new people carrier had it’s tyres slashed and “CRIPPLE” painted along the side. They’d also been the victim of anonymous calls, and, unbeknownst to Dawn (and Ferreira, back then) Holly was the victim of some incredibly ugly comments on her blog, which she left up, but ignored, so her large army of supporters could see the sort of thing she had to go through.
Dawn’s been stabbed to death, and Holly, without the help she needs, technically died 48 agonizing hours later of “natural causes”, but it might as well have been murder. The previous harassment case had petered out – despite telling her to keep a diary of incidents, Dawn seemed reluctant to pursue the investigation and had noted little. Her husband Warren, incidentally, had left her not long after Holly’s accident for a neighbour, Sally – after he went off the rails, and lost his business and their bigger house.
In trying to find out information from their neighbours and friends, they get a mixed picture, especially of Dawn. Disturbingly, apparently she’d got into the habit of meeting men online, according to her “best friend” Julia. For a while Julia babysat so she could hook up with these men, but when her judgemental “friend” (who’s also fond of reporting anything she hears back to Sally) withdraws her babysitting services, she invites some of these men to her home. She appears to use them purely for sex – like a release, letting herself know she’s more than just a carer, even though she clearly loves her daughter. Still, it seems a bit dangerous…It leaves the always under-resourced Hate Crimes Unit with a lot of work tracking down all Dawn’s hook-ups, but for once they’re given some extra bodies.
Julia has two foster children, Caitlin and Nathan. Nathan is just eleven and disappeared two days after the murder, but, oddly, isn’t in the social work register of children in care. Julia, who’s unexpectedly become pregnant at the age of 42, and her husband Matthew, a teacher, seem excellent foster carers – Caitlin, 13, a previously troubled child, is settled and happy there, and it was assumed that Nathan would be under the radar there in the back-of-beyond, with a highly experienced fosterer – until he runs away. Zigic hears he was often at Dawn’s, so they need to speak to him, but he’s warned off by Rachel (no surname), a pushy police officer with a gun, and his boss similarly told by her superior that they would find Nathan – which makes the team wonder why the boy’s being kept so well-hidden. Could he be dangerous? Has he just been released from custody?
The team also hear reports from several people of an older man in a red Passat hanging around opposite Dawn’s. Luckily, one of her more regular male friends thought it suspicious – they’re right on the edge of the village and there’s little else to see – and remembers the number plate. He’s known to the police from way back as one of the more zealous animal rights campaigner, but seems to have changed his interests to campaigning zealously against the Right To Die movement. He leaflets them, but swears that’s the closest he’s been. He shows the police a video of Holly, previously unknown to them, flanked by her parents, giving an impassioned speech supporting the right to choose to die by any rational disabled person who has no hope of recovery.
Reading Holly’s blog, Ferreira notices the change in her attitude. Originally a sporty girl, winning trophies in all sorts of sports (they’re all still in her room, which must have been initially encouraging, then as time went on they would seem taunting) she now can do nothing without her mother’s help. Ferreira notices the slide into depression – initially she’s determined she’ll beat the odds; she’ll make a miracle recovery. But as it sinks in that she’ll never walk again, she stops going to physio, which was helping her gain strength in her arms and hands, then stops leaving the house altogether. That’s when she starts investigating the Right To Die legislation, and gains a certain amount of celebrity, as many supporters do.
After all the investigations into Dawn’s exes, and questions about strangers in the village, it eventually becomes clear this crime was committed by a local. As everyone’s secrets come tumbling out the closet – including Nathan’s – who is found by Rachel, and Dushan and Mel eventually get their hands on the murder weapon, there are still several people with motive, means and opportunity. The ending is truly shocking – I was totally wrong with my guess at “whodunit”! And the internet harasser is unveiled too…
This is a more conventional police procedural than Eva’s first two, but it’s just as readable (clear plenty of time for it!) and puts in the spotlight controversial things we might not always consider, like what it’s like caring for a disabled child – especially one who wants to die, the effects of harassment, some of the internet porn available (that truly shocked me), and the Right To Die movement. Zigic and Mel’s respective lives outside work continue to fascinate – they’re getting to be my favourite detectives! I get a strong impression that Eva has spent time with people from all walks of life, as her characters always ring true – I’ve noticed many successful authors have no idea how working class people speak. Not so with Eva, and she reminds me of Denise Mina in that respect.
The only problem? We’ve got ANOTHER YEAR before we get a new Zigic and Ferreira! That’s the only downside to another excellent offering from someone whose star will only continue to rise.