In La Frenière’s debut thriller, the savage murder of a local citizen threatens a close-knit community in a small London village.
Many of Glaston Town’s residents are low-income families living in social housing. But the citizens find themselves united when a nearby area once populated by criminals is redeveloped, consequently flooding Glaston Town with displaced drug dealers, prostitutes, and other lawbreakers. Members of the community band together to clean up their streets, forming a collective when the park, Lavender Gardens, may be destroyed by a developer to make way for a lorry (truck) route. But the biggest menace the citizens face may be from within: One of the housing tenants is killed from multiple stab wounds, a murder that an ensuing investigation shows was likely committed by someone in Glaston Town. La Frenière’s novel is split into three separate parts, each in a distinctive genre. Part I, “The Solitary Kingfisher,” feels like a drama, focusing on the village’s unity as the people overcome fears of criminals’ retribution if they testify against them. “The Rebels,” Part II, becomes a soap opera detailing numerous relationships, particularly romances, such as one revolving around Jack, who has a child with Bee, and his envy over her apparent affection for Mick. Part III, however, paves the way for “Unfinished Business” with the murder, leading to a series of interrogations helmed by DC Sharon Tyllor and a dizzying whodunnit that’s not easy to figure out. There’s a plethora of characters but never more than La Frenière can handle, and they, along with the setting, help interlock the stories to create a cohesive novel. The second section does occasionally get repetitive; certain events, like Catholic Maureen’s father’s disapproval of her courtship with Isak, who’s Jewish, are unnecessarily reiterated, almost as if “The Rebels” were intended to be its own book. However, the author ends on a high note with the murder mystery, which is unquestionably the best of the three sections. It’s rife with motives and endless finger-pointing while recalling the opening tale when the community’s unity is put to the test. By the end, the murder, as well as a few romances, is adequately resolved.
A trio of stories that stand out individually but, like the Glaston Town residents, are much stronger as a whole.