Review published on April 10, 2018.
Having been pulled from a canal in East London, almost drowned and in a coma, Solomon Mullan’s sister Tiffany has been admitted to hospital. The fact that her system was full of alcohol, a potentially fatal level of pentobarbital and that she was a “burlesque dancer” – or stripper according to the police – lead to a lack of any commitment to launch a proper enquiry. Inspector Helen Fox is in charge of the police investigation, but only because she has a professional interest in Luke, Solomon’s elder sibling. He is a career criminal with links to organised crime and she thinks Tiffany’s accident may provide a useful lead to him. Inclined to assume that Tiffany’s job would indicate that she is also a drug-taker, Fox convinces herself that this was just a tragic accident and is unwilling to pay heed to Solomon’s assertions that his sister isn’t an addict. However, when Solomon discovers that his sister had arranged to meet someone via an online dating site, he begins to believe that this man must have had something to do with her “accident”. As he starts his own investigations he discovers that there have been other local women who have been attacked, and even murdered, after arranging dates via an app.
Having been orphaned ten years earlier, when Solomon was thirteen, relationships between the three siblings are close and, although their lifestyles are very different, Solomon and Luke are always fiercely protective of their “baby” sister. However, as Luke has had to go into hiding because he is wanted by the police, it is up to Solomon to find out not only what happened to his sister, but also to track down a serial killer. This requires a huge leap of courage for him because, following an incident almost two years ago, he hasn’t left his flat for almost twenty-two months. Although he has had minimal formal education, he is a highly intelligent man who now lives his life online, with his only social contact being provided by his membership of the “Brain Pool”, a group of enthusiasts who meet regularly online to set difficult quizzes. It is this idiosyncratic group of people, particularly fellow member Kay, who is keen to get to know him in person, who help him as he tries to uncover the obscure links behind all the attacks.
I found this a reasonably engaging story, especially once I was able to suspend my disbelief about certain aspects of the plotting, the total ineptitude of the police investigation in general, and Inspector Fox’s behaviour in particular! The linking of the attacks to Shakespearean plays was an entertaining twist, especially when following how the “Brain Pool” collaborated in trying to make sense of all the word-plays which the killer employed. Without spoiling the plot by going into detail, I found myself having rather mixed feelings about Solomon’s integrity because, whilst I felt some sympathy with the predicament he found himself in, I thought that his own part in his brother’s criminality were rather “white-washed”. In fact, with only a couple of exceptions, I thought that the characterisations weren’t consistently credible. Whilst I quite enjoyed sharing Solomon’s frustrations with the duplicitous Inspector Fox, she was at times portrayed more as a pantomime “baddie” rather than just as a highly ambitious police officer! One thing the story certainly does do is feed into fears of the potential dangers of meeting people via online dating sites – who knows who might turn up!
I thought that the story was rather slow to get going but about halfway through, and until the penultimate chapter, the tension increased and I felt more involved in caring about the individuals involved, especially the race against time to find the final one and to catch the killer. However, the last chapter brought the story to a very abrupt, and rather unexpected conclusion and I am left wondering whether this was to leave the way open for a series featuring Solomon, the Mullan family and the “Brain Pool”!
Linda Hepworth 3/2
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Corvus 9781782395973 pbk Apr 2018
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