Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
Definitely not a domestic novel despite its being concerned with families, both civilian and police. Thereare fathers: faithful, absconding, hard done by; there are pregnant mothers and children of varying ages.
The prologue features a small boy running from some nameless horror so it’s comforting to find D.I. Zigic of Peterborough’s Hate Crimes Unit and father of two, painting the nursery the wrong shade of pink in expectation of the birth of a daughter.
Domestic equilibrium stops there. A second pregnant mother is Julia who fosters terribly abused children, one of whom is the boy now on the run. Meanwhile, at the local kennels, a single mother lives with both her loutish son, and the husband of Dawn, a distressed and shadowy nymphomaniac who has been found stabbed to death in her kitchen while upstairs her paralysed daughter has died unattended. Both mother and daughter have been suffering harassment, the one by a persistent watcher, the other by way of on-line abuse and death threats Zigic and his colleague, Ferreira, have a wide circle of suspects: apart from the usual – family members, friends, tradesmen - it transpires that the murdered woman found sexual partners on the internet: 38 in the current year.
Throughout the story there is the running thread of Ferreira’s fight with the after effects of a wound sustained when a suicide bomber blew himself up. She has shrapnel embedded in her legs which she digs out herself when the pain becomes unbearable.
And there is Nathan, the child on the run from earth mother Julia, but overtaken by Rachel: a sinister authority figure who appears to be on his side but against the police, while both are privy to a dreadful secret the exposure of which would surely solve everything and identify Dawn’s killer.
Eventually Zigic realises that the police have been led down several blind alleys, in other words: red herrings which the reader may forgive because they are quite well done. There are rather too many interviews however and not enough action, as happens when the murders are in the past and now it’s all investigation. The end is predictable and unsatisfactory.
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