Thursday, January 24, 2019

Review of Dead To Me by Cath Staincliffe (2012, Corgi)

Mancunian teenager Lisa Finn has had a rocky start to life – placed in care by her mother, in trouble with the law, and addicted to drugs. She dies with a single stab wound to the chest. The case is picked up by a Major Incident Team headed up by DCI Gill Murray. Lisa’s mother insists the feckless boyfriend is to blame, but Murray wants everything done by the book, every lead run down and closed off. New recruit DC Rachel Bailey is a cop in a hurry and she’s little time for the book. She has her own ideas as to who the killer is and she want to prove her worth. It’s DC Janet Scott’s job to keep Bailey on the straight-and-narrow and see if she can deliver on the promise that Murray sees in her. The problem is that Scott and Bailey do not see eye-to-eye and that has the potential to cause all kinds of issues for the investigation.

Dead To Me is a prequel to the TV series ‘Scott and Bailey’ and was published mid-way through the run of the second series. Staincliffe was not a writer for the TV series, so I’m not quite sure how the novel came about; I’ve also not watched the TV series so I’ve no point of comparison between them. What I can say though is that I thoroughly enjoyed the read. The premise is relatively straightforward – a fairly conventional police procedural investigating the murder of a young woman found stabbed in her home. The woman had recently left a care home and was found by her junkie boyfriend. What sets the book apart is the trio of lead female characters: the experienced and successful DCI Gill Murray; the stoic Janet Scott, a career DC who wants to stay on the frontline and has no ambition for promotion; and the impetuous and reckless DC Bailey who is hungry for success and recognition. Staincliffe provides all three with a decent personal backstory and unfolding personal issues and interlinks those with their professional lives, and the story hinges around their interactions. In other words, this is really a Scott, Bailey and Murray story, with each given even weight, though Bailey acts as a kind of fulcrum in the story. While the mystery element holds no great surprises, the procedural components and the actions and interactions of the three lead characters make for a compelling and entertaining read.

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