By day Mary Andrea Clarke holds down a responsible position in the Civil Service - but by night she is a crime fiction writer
Claire McGowen's debut novel focuses on the aftermath of a murder. While suspense is maintained throughout, attention is less on ‘whodunnit’ than how the crime affects the lives of those involved.
The story is told from three points of view, Charlotte Miller, fiancée of the main suspect; Keisha Collins, single mother who suspects her violent boyfriend knows more than he admits, and DC Matthew Hegarty, arresting officer whose career looks set to soar on the strength of the case.
Charlotte’s life seems perfect, her biggest problems apparently the details of her imminent wedding to wealthy banker Daniel Stockbridge. This changes when the couple go to a Kingston Town nightclub. The club owner is killed and the next morning sees the police arrive to arrest Daniel. With everyone assuming Daniel’s guilt, Charlotte’s fight to prove his innocence leaves her increasingly isolated. It is a fight which gradually breaks down the life she has taken for granted and prompts her to question what is important and whom she can trust.
Keisha’s entry into Charlotte’s life brings further confusion. From contrasting cultures and backgrounds, the two women form an uneasy alliance. Never quite understanding each other, they have different perceptions of the right action to take, creating a sense of wariness between them despite their bond.
Hegarty, career success looking assured following the arrest, finds himself struggling with turmoil created by Charlotte’s quest. Her determination to prove Daniel innocent raise questions in his mind despite the weight of evidence. His doubts are not helped by the distraction of Charlotte herself, noticed the moment he arrives to arrest Daniel.
The multiple viewpoints work well, with sufficient space to get the feel of varying perspectives. The characters are well drawn, including interesting idiosyncrasies such as the inky fingers of Daniel’s barrister, the upbeat Kylie. Attention is paid to the reality of detail. I particularly liked a reference to some court evidence as turning “a gory murder into a snoozefest".
This is an excellent introduction to Claire’s writing career.