As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Trapeze, 30 November 2017. ISBN: 978-1-4091-7028-0 (PB)
Shetland and Lewis have long harboured more criminals in fiction than
many large towns do in reality; and now Lara Dearman is set fair to put
Guernsey on the map in the same way. All are islands small and remote enough to
turn a murder mystery into a country house style story, with the number of
suspects limited by the location.
Throughout The Devil's
Claw, the author's affinity with her birthplace shines like a beacon. A
serial killer in such a quiet, picturesque vicinity stretches credulity more
than a little, but this promising debut evokes the slightly claustrophobic
small-town atmosphere which pervades the island and draws the reader in to such
an extent that it's easy to suspend disbelief.
It's part police procedural,
part accidental sleuth. Jennifer Dorey is a journalist, back on her native
island after a traumatic experience on 'the mainland', and soon fighting a
battle with her editor who seems to be blocking her attempts to investigate an
unexplained death. She encounters DCI Michael Gilbert, who is nearing
retirement and carrying plenty of baggage of his own; they pool their
resources, and soon find there's far more going on than one apparently drowned
body washed up on one of Guernsey's many beaches.
Guernsey is a hotbed of myths
and mysteries, and Dearman puts her knowledge of them to good use. The island
is also not as picture-perfect as it seems; even without the murder mystery
element, there's a dark side encompassing old resentments, more modern horrors
like child abuse and drugs, and the kind of mischief which grows out of poverty
and boredom. All this is threaded through the narrative, building a picture of
a place in which crime is as credible as in any inner city.
The characters, too, are
rounded and real. Both protagonists have demons from the past, and Michael also
meets conflict from fellow officers who prefer an easier life; the supporting
cast members too are three-dimensional. A series of short chapters from the
point of view of the murderer interleave the present-day story, and more power
to Lara Dearman for her skilful use of misdirection; though the relatively
short list of suspects soon reveals itself in the present-day chapters, there's
no indication until close to the end which of them is actually the guilty
The two protagonists'
backstories are left hanging, deliberately I hope, to provide an opportunity
for a follow-up and possibly even a series. And with such a beautiful location
as background, I shouldn't be surprised if a TV company comes knocking.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Dearmanwas born and raised on the beautiful Channel Island of
Guernsey. She moved to the UK to study International Relations and French at
the University of Sussex, after which she endured a brief career in finance
before giving it up to be a stay at home mum to her three children. A short
course in Creative Writing at Richmond Adult Community College led to Lara
studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University, London. She
graduated in 2016 with a distinction. Having moved from Guernsey to Brighton to
London to Paris to Singapore and back to London over the last fifteen years,
she has now settled in Westchester, New York, with her family. The Devil's Claw is her first novel and
combines her love of Guernsey, myths and folklore with her obsession with crime
fiction and serial killers...
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.