This novel is a rather light approach to a gritty subject. The reason I use the term ‘light’ is that it tells a realistic story of a horrible situation but never goes into the grimy details. The details of the offences are balanced by the interactions of the members of the police squad, and again, the characters and interactions are rather pleasant considering the gravity of the situation. The interpersonal relationships are varied and interesting and provide a nice relief from the horror of the human misery. This soap opera part doesn’t interfere with the investigation, although it does reduce the suspense a bit.
The author strikes a nice balance between what the readers know and what the detectives know, which puts us in a comfortable position of smug superiority, but we still need the detectives to figure out how it all fits together.
This is a well-written police procedural, but a bit formulaic. There is a quick character sketch of each new character who is introduced, giving name, general age, one physical characteristic, one personality characteristic. There’s nothing wrong with this technique, but when it happens several times in rapid succession it draws attention to itself, at the same time producing an information overload that reduces its usefulness.
Then comes the usual hard-to-believe point where experienced officers step over the line of good policing for sentimental reasons, and get away with it because their hearts were in the right place. Late in the story, there was also an unnecessary recap of all the evidence, provided by the rather transparent device an officer on a stakeout, thinking it all through because he is bored. This is followed by a highly choreographed climax with great suspense, and then the old Poirot “reveal” at the end.
It is hard to place the readership for this novel, but the timely nature of the story, plus the avoidance of any gritty details leads me to recommend it to older Young Adults.(4 / 5)