Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review of Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan (2017, Vintage)

Corinne Sawyer is finally feeling good about her looks. The operations have gone well and she has a face and body that turns heads. But on an early morning run she is jumped from behind and strangled to death. It seems like a case for CID, especially as a rapist has been operating in the area, but DI Zigic and DS Ferreira of the Hate Crimes Unit are called in to take over: it seems that Corinne had been born Colin. There have been a series of trans-related violent attacks locally over the past year, though the victims have declined to take the cases forward. CID still think the murder is the work of the rapist, who perhaps didn’t realise he was attacking a trans woman. Zigic and Ferreira are not so sure. It might be part of a campaign against trans women. Moreover, Corinne was also going through a messy divorce and was partly estranged from her family. The case attracts national media coverage and a misstep by Ferreira raises hackles among the trans-community means that the police struggle to make progress in what’s proving to be a very sensitive case.

Watch Her Disappear is the fourth book in Eva Dolan’s Hate Crimes Unit series. The strength of the series hook is that Dolan can explore some controversial crimes, but to do so in a way sensitive to those communities they effect while exposing the discrimination and prejudice of society and tensions within the police as to how to handle crimes centred on sexuality, disability, gender and race. In this outing, Dolan focuses on violent attacks against trans women, while also developing the personal lives of the lead characters, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, and the institutional politics of their police station. She does a very nice job of exploring the often complex family situations of trans women, as well as the hateful ways they are often treated by society, whilst also detailing their friendships and support networks. She never loses sight, however, that she is telling a police procedural, keeping several possibilities open as to the murderer of Corinne Sawyer, a local trans woman, and violent attacks against others. Indeed, it’s difficult to determine who the guilty party is up to the denouement, despite the tale being replete with clues. Overall then a very good police procedural, with engaging characters and a compelling plot.

No comments: