DI Jack Caffery, an 18-year-veteran of the Murder Squad and presently head of Bristol's Major Crime Investigation Unit, returns at a point six months after the events described in the author's last novel, 'Skin.' As the book opens, on a cold November night, Caffery is called to the scene of a carjacking in an underground car park, something one would not consider a case for the MCIU until it becomes known that an 11-year-old girl was in the car when it was taken.
Caffery puts a team together: DC Prody, just coming off four years as a traffic copy; DS Paluzzi [nicknamed 'Lollapalooza'], DS Turner, and at some point Phoebe ['Flea'] Marley, now a support-group sergeant who also runs the Underwater Search Unit. ['She'd got her dumb nickname as a child because people told her she never looked before she leaped. And because of her irritating, incurable energy.'] There are secrets in both Caffery's and Flea's lives that play in the back of their thoughts, coincidentally both involving siblings; children at risk are also a large part of the plot. The investigation takes a different turn when Flea tells Caffery there have been two other incidents closely following the same pattern, and they realize this was not just a random act.
The characters are very well-drawn and intriguing, especially Flea, who remembers her father telling her as a child 'We don't give up in this family. It's against the Marley code. Ancient belief system. Bad things happen when you do - - it's like flying the face of nature.' And that persistent nature is a good part of what makes her such a terrific cop, and fascinating individual.
The reader is kept rapt for more or less the first half of the book just by the mystery of the identity of the hijacker, and what he may have done to the child [shudder]. Then there is a sudden shift in intensity, as the plot takes unexpected and quite startling twists and turns, and from that point on I could not put the book down till its conclusion, breath held a good part of the way there. [I should add that my vocabulary has been enlarged by the terms 'elasticated,' lumpenly,' and 'forensicated,' which may just be a matter of Brit-speak.]
Happily, the final few pages hint of a return of Caffery and Flea, and one can only hope it will be soon. Highly recommended.