Brian McGilloway, May 2017, 336 pages, Corsair, ISBN: 1472151305
Reviewed by Michelle Peckham.
(Read more of Michelle's reviews for Euro Crime here.)
A complex mixture of homophobia and racism in the Greenaway Estate, somewhere in Northern Ireland, provides the story for this fourth book from McGilloway, featuring DS Lucy Black. The book starts with a sermon from Pastor Nixon railing against homosexuality, and suggesting that homosexuals should be stoned, and is swiftly followed by the discovery of a body of a man, with his head bashed in by a rock, who turns out to have been homosexual. Alongside this, DS Black and her partner Tom Fleming, are called to the house of the Lupei family, Romanian immigrants, who have had the sign ‘Romans out’ painted on the side of the house. While they are there, Mrs Lupei gives them a leaflet that is being handed out on the Greenway Estate, which refers to Brexit, the chance to get rid of immigrants, and the statement ‘local housing for local people’. Clearly this is a family under threat, and Lucy is worried about potential escalation. Sprinkled into the mix are ‘legal highs’, drugs being sold by someone, with the claim that someone in the Lupei family is involved in selling drugs, strongly denied by Mr and Mrs Lupei. And of course, in the background is the ever-present history of Northern Ireland and the ‘troubles’.
It’s an interesting complex story, characterised by the reluctance of almost everyone involved refusing to talk, or give any information out that might help the police, which makes life difficult for Lucy and Tom, and this reluctance leads to further violence. There are the usual few blind alleys and then an eventual resolution that brings all the threads together, without too many surprises.
The backstory, is that Lucy’s mother is a senior police office, who left her with her father when she was just 8 years old, but as Lucy’s mother uses her maiden name, very few people actually know that the two are related, and Lucy wants to keep it that way. She blames her mother for the family breakup, and remains fiercely loyal to her father, who is now in a care home, suffering from dementia. Lucy is living in her father’s house, and has a lodger called Grace, a street girl that she offered a home to, at the end of the previous book, and is finally coming to terms with her father’s disease. Gradually throughout this story, there is also a softening in relations between Lucy and her mother, which is interesting to watch. However, apart from this, there is almost no other personal backstory of any kind, in contrast to earlier books in the series, and I found this a little disappointing.
The main focus of the book is then directly on Lucy and Tom and their efforts to uncover who is behind the killing of the (initially) unidentified man, and those behind the targeted attacks on the Lupei family. Without giving too much away, there is somewhat of a mixed message about ‘Brexit’, immigrants, and possible links to drugs, which I found somewhat uncomfortable. However, Lucy is strong in her support of the Lupei family, making efforts to help them get rehoused away from the Greenway Estate, where they will be safe. There are sympathetic noises towards the homosexual issue, where it seems particularly difficult for members of the ‘macho’ male community, to openly admit that they are gay, and Lucy determinedly challenges Pastor Nixon on his homophobia. Lucy is a strong, likeable, detective and Tom works well as a sensible, level headed foil to her more headstrong approach. Overall, the book has strong lead characters, a complex story with some surprises, and an interesting mix of prejudices that drive the plot.
Michelle Peckham, May 2017