29th September 2014
This novel is far removed from the glamorous locations of CSI, exposing the very seedy underbelly of Manchester. Struggling DCI Kate Simms investigates a series of drug overdoses, which really gets the media talking when a pop idol happens to be one of the bodies. Simms suspects there might be more to the case than meets the eye, and against all better judgment gets back in touch with Professor Nick Fennimore, a one-time scientific advisor to the National Crime Faculty now working at a university in Aberdeen.
Kate’s reasons for reluctance are valid; Nick’s personal involvement with a case Kate was investigating, almost cost her career and she was demoted as a result. He is good at what he does however, a specialist in toxicology and causes of death, and removed from the situation is an independent advisor, he agrees to help. Upon analysing the data, he suggests that the chances of the deaths being accidental are highly unlikely. Someone is cutting heroin with some dangerous ingredients, which are potent to particular types of people; this is murder on a grand scale.
Nick has some major personal demons, with his wife and daughter being abducted, and the wife turning up mutilated later. His daughter was never seen again, and wishing she is still alive somewhere, obsessively intent on tracking her down continually haunts him. He decides to travel to Manchester to assist on the case, on the down-low since his name is mud with the police.
The case takes us through the grimy backstreets of industrial Manchester, from brothels to abandoned warehouses, with some very nefarious pimps and drug dealers met along the way. Kate’s superior seems desperate for her to fail, and it becomes difficult to investigate the case when she is not sure which of her colleagues is a friend or foe, especially when a £4m drug haul cannot be accounted for, which may just be linked to the deaths. The case is complicated further as a number of prostitutes loosely connected to the investigation are found dead, and the modus operandi is sheer raw violence; there is a murderer out there, willing to torture and kill to ensure some secrets are buried forever.
The book is a very easy and enjoyable read, with the pace of the story and the various twists keeping me hooked until the end. There is no garbled jargon here, in spite of the numerous insights into pathology and toxicology involved, so you never feel like you are in over your head. It is easy to see this novel being made into a TV drama, as each set-piece is so easily visualised through the description and characterisation by the author.
The novel leaves me wanting more, from both the Kate-Nick relationship, as well as the never-ending search for Nick’s daughter. You really feel his pain and non-ability to find closure with the search, and empathise with his decisions made in this regard, in spite how they are perceived by those around him.
A fantastic debut in what will become an interesting series of novels featuring Simms and Fennimore.
Rating: 4/5 stars