Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Review of Hurt by Brian McGilloway (Constable, 2013)

December in Derry and the body of a sixteen year old is found on train tracks.  The victim’s phone and social media suggests she was groomed by a man using multiple identities before being enticed to meet him.  When a second teenage girl goes missing Sergeant Lucy Black and her colleagues are determined to find her before she suffers the same fate.  Given the anonymity of the internet, the on-going sectarian divisions and the strained relationship between community and police, plus her continued stressed relationship with her superiors, including her boss who happens to be her estranged mother, tracking down the abductor and killer is not going to be straightforward.

Hurt is the second book in the Lucy Black series set in and around Derry in Northern Ireland.  As with McGilloway’s previous books he captures well the tense social relations of the sectarian city and complex set of community relations.  The tale focuses on the internet grooming of teenage girls and the discovery of the body of one, her throat cut, and the disappearance of another.  The context with respect to the grooming is nicely done.  However, the story is fairly straightforward and tension added through the focus on Lucy and her investigation felt a little hollow.  Black is cast as somewhat of a loner, pursuing her own path and constantly battling her superiors, including her mother, her senior officer.  While the mother is set up to play a negative foil given Lucy’s foolhardy antics I found myself agreeing more-and-more with the mother’s dressing-downs.  Moreover, I couldn’t work out why Lucy’s unit seemed to only have two staff - her and her alcoholic boss.  The result was I never quite believed Lucy’s detective work, especially those bits where she decides to head into potentially dangerous situations unaccompanied.  Nonetheless an engaging tale with good social context.

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