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Thursday 11 February 2021

‘Forgotten Victim’ by Helen H Durrant

Published by Joffe Books,
28 August 2020.
ISBN 978-1-78931-644-5 (PB)

Manchester has its fair share of mean streets, some of them a lot meaner than others; it’s territory Helen Durrant clearly knows well. Her team of detectives, headed by DCI Rachel King, are pretty familiar with the meanest corners – but even they are fazed by a decaying body discovered in a tunnel under one of the few old cotton mills which hasn’t been turned into luxury flats.

Even when it becomes plain that the dead man was not an unfortunate rough sleeper but the victim of a three-year-old murder, they struggle to identify him. After so long there are few clues left; and no one they question wants to talk – they all seems afraid of something, or more likely someone. It takes a while, but slowly a picture starts to build, of drug dealing, domestic abuse and violence.

Meanwhile, the detectives have a new boss, and it’s not good news. Rachel King herself is newly pregnant by her slightly shady on-off lover Jed McAteer, and reluctant to share her secret with anyone apart from her trusted sergeant Elwyn Price. Her complicated family life adds an extra dimension to the unfolding story (are divorces ever quite as civilized as hers?), especially when a mystery from Rachel’s own past unexpectedly rears its head.

Helen Durrant weaves a colourful tapestry out of a pacy, convoluted plot, a keenly observed and well-realized background and characters who it’s easy to imagine continuing with their lives outside the confines of the story. For me, the novel’s greatest strength is those characters: tough and  capable but soft-centred Rachel, down-to-earth Elwyn, snippy DC Amy and her ambitious colleague Jonny; and in the background, trying to control different parts of Rachel’s life, new boss Detective Superintendent Kenton and persistent ex Jed McAteer. The villains, suspects and witnesses are a mixed bunch; it’s rarely clear who is a real bad guy and who is just covering their own back.  

There are just enough loose ends and unanswered questions to suggest Durrant isn’t yet finished with this series: how will Rachel handle maternity leave? Who was the man in the street digging up the past? How will Rachel’s and Jed’s relationship pan out? I look forward to finding out.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Helen H. Durrant writes gritty police procedurals and is published by Joffe Books. Until six years ago she hadn’t written a word, now she has sixteen titles out there and counting. Her novels are set in the Pennine villages outside Manchester. Writing was a dormant ambition. It was retirement that gave her the opportunity to have a go. The success of her books came as a huge surprise, now she can’t stop!


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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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