This is the third novel in a series featuring Detective Constable Cat Kinsella, who, at 27, is an important part of London Murder Investigation Team 4.
As the story opens, Cat’s boss, DCI Kate Steele, asks Cat and her partner DS Luigi (“Lu”) Parnell to re-open a six-year-old case involving serial killer Christopher Dean Masters, even though he was murdered in prison a year ago. All of his purported victims had been found but one: Holly Kemp, 22 when she died. Now Holly’s bones have just been discovered, but the method and place of her killing are quite different from those of the previous victims. As Cat and Lu revisit the old case, they find more disparities, and some startling lapses in the previous investigation as new secrets get exposed.
In the background, Cat worries about her own secrets, even as she employs her considerable ability to drag secrets out of others and make judgments based what she finds. She muses, “My hypocrisy astounds even me.”
The biggest secret she carries is the identity of her father, who is involved in the criminal underworld. No one knows about this connection, since Cat has taken her mother’s maiden name. Her sister Jacqui doesn’t even admit to the truth about their dad. Cat thinks about how memory works:
“Details fade the second you turn your back. Inaccuracies grow. Your hard drive gets corrupted. It’s why Jacqui frames our childhood as something straight off an episode of The Waltons, while I seem to conjure up the bloodiest scenes from The Godfather. The truth is usually a gray blotch lying somewhere in between.”
But that disparity in memory about the past colors their present too. As Cat observes:
“Dad and Jacqui, splashing about in the shallow end of the conversation: floristry, X-ray results, oatmeal stouts, Finn [Jacqui’s son]. Me and Dad, it’s always straight into the deep end. One reckless plunge and we’re off. No topic too toxic. No pain left unexplored.”
She both loves and loathes her father, who claims he has continued to work for the mob boss Frank Hickey only in order to protect her. But there is even more about him she is concealing: her father was involved in a case Cat worked on 18 months earlier, described in the first book of the series, in which a missing girl turned up dead. Against all the rules of police involvement, Cat not only hid her father’s role, but got into a still-ongoing relationship with Aiden Doyle, the brother of the victim. Aiden, after all this time, is still unaware of the connection between Cat’s father and his dead sister. What would happen if he found out?
And in fact, the cliffhanger that ends the book has to do with Cat and Aiden and their relationship. As for the mystery about Holly, it gets solved mostly by Cat’s dogged police work and persistence in spite of a number of twists and turns.
Evaluation: The author is touted as appealing to fans of Tana French, and indeed, she has something of French’s same style. Like French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, this book combines an absorbing and well-crafted police procedural with an even more interesting drama about family secrets and interactions among members of the detective force. Frear’s talent for writing places her in the top tier of mystery authors.
Published in the U.S. by HarperCollins, 2020