Detective Cat Kinsella of London's Metropolitan Police returns to solve the murder of a young Australian woman in Frear’s (Sweet Little Lies, 2018) latest procedural.
Cat’s still spooked from the fallout of the Maryanne Doyle case; it brought her and Aiden Doyle together, sure, but she can’t tell anyone about their romance. Still, she and her partner, DS Luigi Parnell, are on good working terms, and the rest of the team is holding their own, with beautiful, unpredictable DCI Kate Steele still making everyone’s life hell but also keeping them to high standards. Called to a crime scene, they find the body of a young woman. Of course, the layers of lies and family tension quickly mount: Naomi Lockhart, the dead woman, was temping at a recruitment firm owned by Kirstie Connor, whose husband, Marcus, runs a charity for ex-felons, including Naomi’s roommate. Marcus’ sister, Rachel, is married to Joseph, who has made no secret of his numerous infidelities and actually had propositioned Cat several months before. And then there’s Rachel and Joseph’s daughter, an aspiring forensic investigator. As the detectives scramble to find evidence that proves the guilt of the prime suspect, they find more and more inconsistencies in all these stories. Throughout it all, Cat struggles to keep her mind clear and her personal relationships solid; Aiden resents the fact that she won’t introduce him around, and her dad’s old “colleague” Frank Hickey is making ominous suggestions of blackmail. He will expose what Cat has done to protect her father if she doesn’t help him in return. The characters’ banter is a delight. Frear writes scenes of conversation between the detectives that make them all feel like familiar old friends—to each other but also to the reader. The mystery, however, is less compelling in this second outing. Ultimately, the discovery of the perpetrator feels a bit obvious and anticlimactic, not so much careful police work as a story in need of better editing.
The emphasis on the minutiae of the investigation will be interesting, perhaps, to fans of CSI, but even they may chafe at the slow pace.