Each of the first three chapters of this newest novel by Denise Mina, author of the Garnethill trilogy among other wonderful books, introduces the reader to three women, each of them strong and independent, and each tested by events which follow. The most dramatic, and tragic, is Sarah Erroll, 24 years old, who is sexually mutilated and brutally murdered in the first pages. [The full extent of the savagery is not known till nearly half-way through the book, although it is hinted at.] In Glasgow, the Strathclyde police are called in, and the DS handling the brunt of the investigation is DS Alex Morrow, not quite five months pregnant with twins. The third of these women is Kay Murray, a single mother of four who had worked for the dead woman and, coincidentally, had been a schoolmate of Alex many years ago.
But the central figure throughout the book is Lars Anderson, multimillionaire banker who believed that “you couldn’t trick an honest man.” He appears to be a UK version of Bernard Madoff, having ruined many lives before taking his own in the early pages of the book. There is plenty of family dysfunction and family tragedy to go around in this book, the Andersons only the worst of these.
Alex thinks, as the case begins, that “she hated sexual murders. They all hated them, not just out of empathy with the victim but because sexual crimes were corrosive, they took them to hideous dark places in their own heads, made them suspicious and fearful, and not always of other people.”
The author kept this reader off balance, with having to figure out who some of the characters were and their relationship to other players, and to the plot itself. The book has sudden shocking moments, only adding to that sense of being off-balance. The author mentions Alex’ looking forward to a night going over her notes and trying to fit together the pieces of the puzzle that is her investigation, and “the promise of utter absorption” that it holds. I could completely relate to that description, for that is precisely what this novel provides.