Review published on May 31, 2017.
This is an intriguing, quirky novel, set in January 2016, that investigates the disappearance of a young woman 29 years previously from the towpath beside the River Thames between Kew Bridge and Mortlake cemetery. The bleak atmosphere of this lonely path, frequented mainly by runners and dog walkers, is well created – cold, dark, unfriendly, with the few houses and their residents being threatening rather than reassuring.
If sense of place/atmosphere is important to a crime story, characterisation is even more so and in this novel the characters are all memorable – some eccentric, some creepy, some you would like to meet, others you’d prefer to run a mile to avoid. The lead characters are Stella Darnell, expert cleaner and calm clear-thinking detective, and Jack Harmon, her detective partner whose special skills and sensitivities to people and atmosphere are tantalisingly described.
Flamboyant property developer Natasha Latimer commissions them to discover whether her newly purchased house in Thames Cottages is haunted. Neighbour Adam hires them to discover what happened to his wife Helen Honeysett, who disappeared from the towpath in January 1987. Through their investigations, Stella and Jack build up a complex tapestry of information from newspaper reports, residents’ memories of what they saw (or believed they saw) and heard on the night she disappeared, and their own deductions based on those people’s current behaviours. Ghosts are a theme of this book, in the sense that people can be haunted by memories, by hatred, prejudice, love, regret, grief. It made me reflect on the complexity of the truths, half-truths and lies that people tell to keep intact their memories, their privacy and to protect the people they love. Skilfully written, compelling and unusual with lots to discuss – ideal for reading groups.
Adie Batt 4/4
The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson
Head of Zeus 9781784972257 hbk Apr 2017