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Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz awakes in hospital to discover that he has lost all memory of the events that have put him there. He has been shot through the leg and was dragged half-dead from the Thames, the boat he was on drifting empty but with the blood of more than one person on the deck. His furious boss accuses him of having been involved in a rogue operation to pay ransom for the return of a missing child – young Mickey Carlyle, who went missing three years earlier and is presumed dead, with her supposed killer convicted and in prison. Ruiz knows that if he was indeed willing to help with the ransom payment, he must have had some reason for believing that Mickey is alive, so turns to his psychologist friend, Professor Joe O’Loughlin, for help in trying to retrieve his memories. And meantime, though he is suspended from duty, he is desperate to find Mickey, if she is still alive…
This is another excellent thriller from Michael Robotham, who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite crime writers. Although the two main characters are the same as in the first in the series, The Suspect, Robotham has shifted the point of view from Joe O’Loughlin in the earlier one to Vincent Ruiz in this one. Still unfortunately written in the first person present tense, it seems to me that Robotham has improved at that technique between the two books, and this one avoided the occasional clumsiness that marred the last one. Changing the point of view means that we get to know much more about Ruiz in this one, finding out about his family background and the early tragedy that is still affecting him as he approaches retirement. It also means that we see O’Loughlin from a different perspective, getting a more rounded picture of how he appears to other people. I’ve only read one other in the series – no. 6, Watching You – and that is told mainly in the third person. It’s an interesting approach that means we keep the familiarity of the same characters while getting a fresh angle on them each time.
The plot is complex but credible, and though there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing, each one stays within the bound of believability. There’s plenty of action, and occasionally Ruiz perhaps strays just a little too much towards superhero status. Set in London, there’s a good sense of place and, as we are taken down beneath the city into the sewers and tunnels, Robotham uses his clearly thorough research lightly to create atmosphere and tension with some fine descriptive writing. But the real strength of the book is in the characterisation. Ruiz is the main focus of this one and, although he is carrying some heavy personal baggage, he is in no way a stereotypical angst-ridden maverick. He is a successful professional copper, well respected until the events at the start of the book – making it all the more intriguing to discover what has made him act so out of character. The other characters are well-rounded too – Mickey’s parents, the other officers involved in the investigation, Ruiz’s mother and of course Joe O’Loughlin himself.
Although this is a series, each of the books stands alone and there isn’t really a continuing story arc as such. So my recommendation is to grab any one you can get hold of and settle down for a thoroughly enjoyable read. I’m certainly looking forward to catching up with the rest of the series.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Mulholland Books.