26th December 2019 4th Estate Books (paperback)
A Birmingham house fire. A young mother dead.
The main suspect?
Her husband – but he’s disappeared.
A young woman has also disappeared but the police don’t seem concerned. Desperate, her mother turns to a less official channel for help.
The less official channel? Former DI Robin Lyons. Once a high-flyer in Homicide Command at the Met, she’s been sacked for misconduct and forced home to Birmingham broke and disgraced.
She thinks she’s hit rock bottom, but she’s about to learn there’s much further to fall. Because the mother who dies was Robin’s best friend – and she will risk everything to get to the truth.
I read this as part of a readalong organised by the Tandem Collective. Thank you to them for inviting me to be involved and thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book. As part of the readalong we were asked to stop at certain points and apply our own investigative skills by identifying suspects and questions we needed answering. Finally we had to outline our hypothesis as to what had happened. This all served to confirm what I already knew – I am rubbish at solving the crime – in films and books and thankfully I am not a Detective!
With a central character in Robin – disgraced former Homicide Detective, back living at home with her parents, the story unfolds as she commences employment with her mum’s friend who runs her own private detective agency. 2 investigations follow – Becca, whose mother has sought the help of the private detective to find her missing daughter, and the case of arson, which killed Robin’s best friend Corinna and whose husband is missing and the main suspect. Robin cannot be involved with the latter investigation, it is a police investigation with no role for her, however she can’t do nothing and undertakes her own covert investigation.
This was a decent piece of crime fiction from an author whose work I have previously enjoyed. As stated previously, I didn’t work any of it out and blithely followed wherever the author led me. That said, the book concluded well with all aspects of the investigation accounted for and for me this is essential in crime fiction – I want to know what happened – who did it and why.
At just short of 400 pages I found this to be a quick read with short enough chapters to squeeze one in here and there! The storylines were busy and at times the number of people involved made it a little hard to keep track – requiring a quick recap or refresh. The book read as crime fiction despite Robin no longer being in a police role and I perceived both investigations as criminal although the case of missing Becca was not treated as such. The questions in the readalong required more analysis from me as a reader and I am not convinced this enhanced my reading experience.
But I liked this book, which is published in paperback now, the storylines were comprehensive and the plot engaging. Robin was a strong and tenacious investigator and I wonder if the author plans more from this female detective…
About the Author
Lucie Whitehouse was born in Gloucestershire in 1975, read Classics at Oxford University and lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of The House at Midnight, the TV Book Club pick The Bed I Made and Before We Met, which was a Richard & Judy Summer Book club pick and an ITV3 Crime Thriller selection.