Rushed and flawed…
When DI Lorraine Fisher goes for a visit to her sister, taking her younger daughter with her, it’s supposed to be a holiday. But this quiet little town in Warwickshire was the scene of a spate of teenage suicides a few years back and it looks like it’s all beginning again. And Lorraine’s nephew Freddy is showing all the signs of being one of the possible victims…
I really enjoyed Samantha Hayes’ Until You’re Mine, in which Lorraine first made her appearance. So it was a double disappointment to me to find that this one reads like a first draft. There are so many problems with it, it’s hard to know where to begin. Continuity issues – a girl removes her motorcycle helmet then slowly raises her hands to her head, finding it very painful to do so – one has to wonder what she removed her helmet with – her feet? Inaccuracies – a hospital doctor who keeps his patients’ notes on an unsecured home laptop? Hardly! Gaping holes – the teenager who hacks past a password control on a computer, with absolutely no indication of how he did it or where he might have acquired this skill. And the forensics people are clearly idiots – they fail to notice minor details like a supposed suicide victim having been given a kicking or that the handwriting on a note might not be that of the person who supposedly wrote it.
But all these flaws could have been dealt with by a proper edit. The real problem with the book lies in the much more serious matter of the characterisation. None of the characters rang true to me, with the possible exception of Lorraine. It was as if they were there purely to serve the plot and were only developed in so far as was necessary for that purpose. So for example, we never find out why the teenage bullying victim is being bullied or by whom – he just has to be bullied so that it is credible to think he might commit suicide. The local police are of course incompetent to allow Lorraine to have an excuse to butt in to the investigation. One character is made to appear so ridiculously over-the-top creepy it’s like watching the villain at a pantomime – I felt an urgent desire to shout ‘he’s behind you’ every time he appeared. And the obligatory autistic character, without whom no novel would be complete these days, is so badly written that he comes over as a cross between Boo Radley and Frankenstein’s monster (but without the charm). Again the problem with this character is that he is there to fit the plot rather than vice versa, so sometimes he has to be intelligent and sometimes he has to have the mind of a five-year-old; sometimes he has to be scary and bad, and other times he has to be loving and protective. It’s possible to have a character that contradictory, but only if it’s handled with a great deal of subtlety and sadly in this case it isn’t.
Add to these problems a plot that edges over the credulity line, and it’s hard to find much to recommend, I’m afraid. The whole thing reads as if it’s been rushed into print to capitalise on the success of Until You’re Mine, and as a result hasn’t had the polishing that could have turned this untidy and flawed book into something much, much better. The basic skills are all there, the detective is a likeable one, there’s some originality in the plotting, and because of these things I may read the author’s next book. But I will be sincerely hoping that a bit more time is taken, by author and publisher both, to ensure that it comes out in a more finished form.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Cornerstone.
PS A look at the covers suggests that either they’re really trying to duplicate Until You’re Mine or that they rushed so much they didn’t notice that they’d come up with effectively the same cover design.