Murder by proxy and a power-mad woman in the suburbs of Belfast.
There’s irony in DCI Serena Flanagan’s name. She lives in dread of her cancer returning, she’s in mandatory therapy because of the recent death of a criminal who got away from her, and her husband still hasn’t quite forgiven her for letting her work invade their home, almost fatally. Alistair wants her to give up her job to save their marriage; if she doesn’t, she fears she’ll lose her two children in a custody battle. But she can no more stop being a cop, and a good one, than she can give up breathing, and that’s why she’s not content with a preliminary finding of suicide in the death of wealthy car dealer Henry Garrick. A terrible auto accident turned him into a burned, maimed, bedridden wreck, and for months his wife, Roberta, had to tend him like a baby. Releasing himself from a miserable existence by taking morphine makes sense under the circumstances—except for two things that strike Flanagan: the odd placement of a photograph near his bed and the cheerful optimism his visiting nurse said she admired in him. Despite half-hearted support from her boss, demands from a local politician that she stop harassing Roberta, and her sense that her own husband is about to give her an ultimatum, she pushes hard to find out more. Why does Roberta seem to have no past? What part did the Rev. Peter McKay play in Garrick’s supposed suicide? Why does Garrick’s disgraced brother beg Flanagan to investigate the drowning death of the Garricks’ little girl? You sometimes want to shake Flanagan, as you would any friend, for some of her overly zealous actions. But you care enough to want to be at her side when she has to make a painful choice between family and career.
In her second case, Neville’s conflicted detective (Those We Left Behind, 2015) stands to lose as much from her hotheadedness as she gains from her persistence.