One day three children – Peter, Jamie and Adam – go into the woods to play, but only Adam returns, with someone else’s blood in his shoes and no memory of what happened. Years go by and the two missing children are never found; but Adam, going by the name Rob Ryan, is now a police officer, and finds himself back in the woods at Knocknaree, investigating the murder of a young girl whose body has been found at an archaeological dig. Are the cases connected? And will Rob’s connection to the cold case impair his judgement when it most matters?
This is a great murder mystery with four distinct plot strands that French (in her first novel) weaves together skilfully to create a very satisfying story. The tale is told from Rob’s perspective, and he is a convincingly flawed detective. While this may be a stock device within the genre, I was compelled by Rob’s narrative and felt a range of conflicting emotions towards him – empathy, frustration, anger, compassion – which kept me reading and kept me caring what happened. The heart of the book is Rob’s relationship with his detective partner on the Murder Squad, Cassie Maddox. They are the dream team, and the depth and complexity of their friendship is very moving – I really wanted to step into the book at some points and intervene! The plot itself is resolved with several great twists, and although I felt that the guilty party’s dialogue was a little unconvincing, it didn’t spoil the reveal. It’s certainly a crime story that will haunt me, which is unusual; and I will definitely be reading the sequel. Rating: ****
Hodder, 2007, ISBN 9780340924761