Written by Sheila Bugler — After an impressive debut last year with Hunting Shadows, Sheila Bugler returns with The Waiting Game. It’s her second London-based police procedural featuring DI Ellen Kelly. The first book focused on the abduction of a young woman, which proved a tricky and dangerous case for our eminently likeable detective, and although The Waiting Game centres on a case of malicious stalking, Bugler carries the seeming simplicity of her plot-lines with great aplomb.
In this book we meet Chloe, an attractive young woman who has recently left an abusive relationship behind. Trouble is, she now finds herself the target of a sinister stalker who prowls around her home at night, leaving her an unsettling treat in the morning. Feeling that the police aren’t taking her fears seriously, Chloe enlists the help of a journalist to publicise her case. When another woman, Monica, comes forward with her own story of harassment, events begin to spiral out of control and Chloe finds herself in greater danger than ever.
Is Monica really the innocent she appears to be, and why is she becoming increasingly obsessed with DI Kelly who is investigating both cases? Added into the mix is the increasingly bizarre behaviour of one of Chloe’s male co-workers, Nathan. He’s a bit of a weird one, but is he the cuplrit?
Bugler shows us the fear that women undergo whether they’re with an abusive partner or being menaced by an unknown creep. Equally, she pinpoints the natural feelings of women who experience these crimes yet are not believed. There’s always the infuriating suggestion that they’ve somehow encouraged the behaviour of the perpetrators, particularly when trying to pursue a complaint through the police. Consequently, the book never loses the feeling of being rooted in reality, adding to its overall air of threat.
By teasing us with red herrings along the way, Bugler lets the peril unfold in a way similar to that seen in Elizabeth Haynes’ Into the Darkest Corner or Nicci French’s Secret Smile. You are lulled into a false sense of security before the realities of each character and their actions are revealed. With some delight I was wrong-footed at a few points along the way, and one plot reveal took me completely by surprise.
However, the real stand out feature of this book is Bugler’s characterisation of DI Kelly herself. When I read the first book I was struck by the close parallels between Kelly and another of my favourite London detectives, DI Stella Mooney, as written by David Lawrence. What Bugler achieves with Kelly is a wholly believable combination of strength and vulnerability. Kelly moves on from the death of her husband, who obviously still looms large in her affections. She is making the first tentative steps back into the world of adult relationships, having been so focussed on her job and her role as a now single mother. However, she finds this a tricky and emotional minefield what with the demands of her new case. Despite all of this she has a strong drive and determination to do the best job she can to assuage Chloe’s fears and concerns, all underscored by some cleverly underplayed emotional vulnerability, which will tug at your sympathies.
What transpires is a well-plotted thriller, that contains enough twists and mercifully believable surprises to keep you hooked throughout.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars