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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Down into Darkness. David Lawrence. Penguin Books (2007)


A very grim, brilliantly structured and superbly written crime story. A woman is found hanging from a tree in London, she has the words "DIRTY GIRL" written on her body. Detective Sergeant Stella Mooney is part of the team investigating the murder, it is hampered by the difficulty of identifying the woman. A second death and a second message on the body do not help clarify matters. As the team try to understand links that may only exist in the killer's mind, the return of Stella's mother to the notorious Harefield estate create problems for Stella. The events in Harefield and the killers plans starts to slowly interact as the plot cunningly develops and grips like a vice right up to the ice cold conclusion.
Matching a superbly developed cast with a cunningly constructed plot, David Lawrence creates a compelling vision of a seething, corrupt city. Stella Mooney is driven, competent and deeply committed to her job. The investigation she is involved in is run with care and attention to detail. The rest of the cast pulse with life and have a chance to develop and have lives outside the investigation that never slows the book down. The extra detail about their lives gives a greater context to their actions and gives the story depth and heft.
The most important character in the book is not human, it is the Harefield estate itself. A housing complex it is alive with criminal activity, creating opportunities and destroying lives with carefree indifference. It is a huge factory creating tainted money that swirl corrupt eddies throughout the city and further. This pulsing lawlessness is repeated in greater and lesser degrees all over the city as the story ranges across London. The context for the story is a vivid city where serious trouble is always breaking out. This hothouse atmosphere adds to the pace an force of the story. Lush, cynical and unforgiving, this is a great read.

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