Written by Frances di Plino — There’s a worrying epidemic in the fictional town of Bradchester. Young children – from as young as six years old – are being smuggled into the town and sold on to paedophiles. Then, when the perverts have finished with them, they are sent out to earn their living on street corners, where they are rescued by the local police.
The victims are Albanian, and terrified of saying anything that could harm their families back home. So Detective Inspector Paolo Storey has his work cut out discovering just who is behind the trafficking ring. It looks like he’s cut a break when a child is dumped outside the A&E department of Bradchester Central Hospital. She has obviously been abused, speaks no English and shies away from any male who comes near. Still, surely they can learn something from her? But it’s not to be as the little girl is murdered in her hospital bed and it becomes abundantly clear to Storey and his team that the people behind this heinous trade are determined not to be brought to justice.
As the police flounder, we see the story from another angle – that of the paedophile himself. Pete Carson is something of a local celebrity. The lead singer of the now disbanded The Vision Inside, he is planning a comeback. Pete is working on a new album and preparing for a huge New Year’s Eve gig in Bradchester, but that doesn’t stop him calling on the mysterious Joey for supplies of young, fresh children to meet his loathsome urges. The descriptions are sketchy as di Plino treads a careful narrative path, but you will still feel utterly revolted by what is implied.
Thankfully, the utter darkness of the book’s subject matter is given some relief in the lightly crafted scenes between Storey and his team – this writer is adept in the art of creating realistic characters and their complex relationship with each other. Storey is a case in point. He has a daughter in psychiatric care following the aftermath of a previous case, and an estranged wife who lays the blame firmly at his door. Add to that a detective sergeant who has more hair colours than most people have hot dinners, another team member with a secret and a third who seems to be losing the plot, and you get a flavour of what’s in store.
This is the third book to feature Storey and the ending would seem to imply that a fourth is in the pipeline. I found him an engaging character, a committed police officer who has plenty to deal with – both at work and outside of it. His dogged determination to catch the traffickers carries the reader along in its wake and you find yourself rooting for him, even when he has to go out on a limb. There are twists and turns galore as we all try to work out who the enigmatic Joey actually is, and the final reveal is neatly executed.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars