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Sunday, 29 October 2017

‘The Girl in the Green Dress’ by Cath Staincliffe

Published by Constable,
27 September 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-2537-8 (HB)

Cath Staincliffe used to write straightforward police procedurals, albeit with protagonists who had real, complicated family lives outside work. More recently, she has picked up the complicated family lives ball, and not only run with it but sprinted off into the distance, way ahead of other crime writers. She has tackled the fallout the victim's family faces after a murder; the agony of being thousands of miles away from the scene of a crime involving a family member; the wider ramifications of a terrorist attack; and now, the effect of a major crime on the families of the perpetrators.

But The Girl in the Green Dress is more than that. It's hardly a spoiler at all to mention that the murder victim, eighteen-year-old Allie, is transgender, another emotive issue which is explored from several angles. The narrative even offers a take on a couple more sensitive areas: what happens to a failed asylum seeker with a conscience, and the way mental health problems impact on the workplace.

Allie's battered body is found after the school prom, still in her beautiful green dress. Her immediate family, already damaged by life but totally supportive of her decision to transition from boy to girl, are devastated. DI Donna Bell assembles her investigation team, notably rookie DC Jade Bradshaw and experienced DS Martin Harris, and sets out to find Allie's killers.

The investigation gets off to a flying start – but unknown to Donna, there are big hurdles ahead, in her own life, and even more disruptively from parents who can't bear the thought of brutal murder being connected to their teenage kids.

And this is where Cath Staincliffe comes into her own. It's a crime novel, so the reader knows right is sure to win out eventually. But it's also a lot more. The triumph of good over evil doesn't always happen easily; inevitably, and in this case especially, the evil leaves its dark footprint behind it. Futures are wrecked, relationships founder and life will never approach anything like normality again for just about everyone close to the action.

I've long regarded Cath Staincliffe as one of the best kept secrets of British crime fiction. It's high time that secret was out in the open, and she received the acclaim and success she deserves.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Cath Staincliffe was brought up in Bradford and hoped to become an entomologist (insects) then a trapeze artist before settling on acting at the age of eight.  She graduated from Birmingham University with a Drama and Theatre Arts degree and moved to work as a community artist in Manchester where she now lives with her family. Looking for Trouble, published in 1994, launched private eye Sal, a single parent struggling to juggle work and home, onto Manchester’s mean streets.  It was short listed for the Crime Writers Association’s John Creasey best first novel award, serialised on BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour and awarded Le Masque de l’Année in France.  Cath has published a further seven Sal Kilkenny mysteries. Cath is also a scriptwriter, creator of ITV’s hit police series, Blue Murder, which ran for five series from 2003 – 2009 starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis.  Cath writes for radio and created the Legacy drama series which features a chalk-and-cheese, brother and sister duo of heir hunters whose searches take them into the past lives of families torn apart by events. Trio, a stand-alone novel, moved away from crime to explore adoption and growing up in the 1960s.  Cath’s own story, of tracing and being re-united with her Irish birth family and her seven brothers and sisters, featured in the television documentary Finding Cath from RTE. Cath is a founder member of Murder Squad, a virtual collective of northern crime writers.  She is an avid reader and likes hill-walking, messing about in the garden and dancing (with far more enthusiasm than grace).


Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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