Published by Headline,
5 March 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-5470-2 (HB)
In the Prologue to this book, set five years ago,
Abigail Boone, former detective sergeant with the Kent Police, stalks and kills
two people walking in a wood. They are former MP Hanley Moss and Teddy Blackborne,
widow of the late industrialist, Sir Alex Blackborne. Why has Abigail done
this? In a brief resume of the events in this writer’s first Abigail Boone
novel, Past Life, we learn that
Abigail had been investigating a paedophile ring of the rich and influential
and had herself been abducted and held in conditions which, although she survived,
led to retrograde amnesia so severe that she had no memory of her own life,
even her husband Jack and her son Quin. But it is not for that alone that
Abigail is seeking retribution; it is also for the girl Sarah Still for whom
she had been searching when abducted who had been murdered, and for others who
had suffered at the hands of aristocratic paedophiles.
We then move to Part One, the
present day, and the accidental discovery in a field of a near-naked young girl
who is unable to speak and is severely malnourished with signs of physical
maltreatment, recent and older. Medical and psychiatric examination establishes
that she is virtually feral, can barely walk, and seems to have been kept in
the dark for years. The case is being handled by Detective Inspector Barbara ‘Barb’
Bowen and Detective Constable Barry Tayleforth, and also Detective Constable
Storm Mathijsen, formerly a clinical psychiatrist, now a member of Kent
Police’s Child Sexual Exploitation Unit. At first there is no clue as to the
child’s identity nor as how she got to where she was found nor as to where she
had been confined for so many years. And then there’s a breakthrough – a DNA
link to the murdered Sarah Still whom Abigail Boone had been investigating
before her own life was turned upside down. Abigail is now in prison; although
due to be released very shortly, she will only assist Barb if she is released
now; she tells Barb that someone is trying to ensure that she will not tell the
police anything, someone who ‘tidying up loose ends’, someone Abigail calls
‘Sally’. But who exactly is Sally and what are these loose ends? And why is
Abigail now in prison?
In Part Two, we go back four years.
The deaths of Moss and Teddy Blackborne have not been linked to Abigail but she
has not returned to her old job in the police. Instead she is acting as a sort
of detective to local crime kingpin Mickey Box, ensuring that rivals on his
patch are turned over to the police, in particular to former colleague Barb
Bowen. And she is in a relationship with Storm Mathijsen , before the latter’s
switch from clinical psychiatry to police detective. She is contacted by Kate
Porter to find her son Noah Maxwell who disappeared 30 years ago. Kate is now
the wife of a wealthy businessman but when Noah disappeared all those years ago
Kate was a drug user and on the streets to feed her habit. The chances of
finding Noah are slim but there is a connection with a large now derelict house
called Eastry House with links to child abuse many years ago. Abigail’s
researches begin to unearth all sorts of connections between what was happening
four years ago and in the present day and this forms the structure of the
narrative with switches to the past and the present and the over-shadowing
presence of the earlier events.
Although there is much to praise in
this elegantly written book, it is divided into Parts with rather obscure
titles (eg The Future Tense of Joy) with each Part alternating between the
present and four years ago (apart from the Prologue) but the chapters are
numbered right through with only the first chapter in each Part being given a
date. More relevant dating would have
made the story structure a lot easier. The prose is highly literary and mostly
a pleasure to read, although some sentences had me foxed.
Overall, the story is not a
cheerful read, nor should it be, considering the subject matter. But if you
like dark and tormented characters, who talk in terse, elliptical sentences,
and a bleak psychological landscape, then it will appeal to you.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Dominic Nolan was born and raised in north London. Past Life was his first novel.
Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.