Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group. http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/
This book is a prequel to Blue Murder, the title that kicked off a TV series of the same name. Having never read the first book, nor seen the TV series, I came into this book fresh, with no preconceptions or knowledge of the characters.
This story functions primarily as an introduction to the three lead characters – all formidable but very different women. Rachel Bailey is the new recruit, the product of a deprived upbringing, determined to beat the odds stacked against her and succeed in her chosen career as a police officer. She is determined and wilful, but her blunt manner and judgemental attitude antagonise the suspects and witnesses she interviews. DCI Gill Murray sees raw potential in Rachel and teams her up with an older and more experienced police officer, Janet Scott. Initially resenting Rachel, Janet eventually starts to see her potential, and in the end it is she who defends Rachel when Gill has to clean up after one too many of Rachel’s mistakes and starts to question her judgement in hiring the new recruit.
Much of this book is about setting up the private lives of all the characters. Rachel has disowned the dysfunctional family she considers a handicap to her career as a police officer, to the point that she is telling lies to her lawyer boyfriend about her background. Married for years to a nice dependable man, Janet is the mother of two adolescent girls, but the marriage is starting to show signs of strain. Ade might be reliable but Janet is starting to find him boring, and he’s not very understanding about the unsociable hours she has to put in at work. Gill is divorced with a teenage son, trying to juggle motherhood with her career and continually rowing with her ex-husband about his choice of women and their influence on her son’s life.
And amongst all that, there is a murder. A teenage girl is found dead in her squalid flat. Her mother, having given up her daughter into the care system years ago, blames the girl’s boyfriend. Without him, she insists, her daughter would have given up the drugs and straightened out her life. Bailey and Scott investigate and discover the answer might not be so straightforward. Certainly the boyfriend, Sean, is hiding something, but did he really kill Lisa?
The book does a very good job of setting up the back story of the three main characters, cleverly interspersing the story of Lisa Finn’s murder. The three main characters all have flaws, but still come across as being likeable. Even Rachel, though she manages to annoy all of her colleagues and frequently rushes off to do all the wrong things, only does so out of a passionate determination to catch the killer, and does come across as a sympathetic character.
This is a well-written book with characters that draw you in, and a murder plot that keeps you reading. Fans of Cath Staincliffe’s other books, and the TV series, will appreciate this insight into what motivates the characters they have already grown to know. Newcomers to the author’s work will appreciate the introduction to three realistic and strong women, and will undoubtedly want to read the rest of the series.
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