The Dying Place

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dyingplace200Written by Luca Veste — The body of a known teenage troublemaker, Dean Hughes, is found dead on the steps of a church in a run down part of Liverpool. But this is no ordinary death, his corpse is covered with signs of torture, some of them months old. As DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi dig further into the crime they discover Hughes has been missing for months. And he’s not the only absentee. It seems other teens, all delinquents and all local, have disappeared without trace. Murphy and Rossi believe someone is clearing the streets of problem teenagers.

Goldie is one of these problems. He’s being held at a remote location called The Farm. His jailers are anonymous, they wear balaclavas and go by pseudonyms, all letters of the Greek alphabet. The most vicious of them all is the leader, called Alpha.

Teaching at The Farm is engineered to turn the teens from reprobates who leech off their neighbours and the state into viable citizens who instead contribute to society. When the inmates stray from the course they are punished with beatings and, worst of all, The Rack. But when one of the beatings goes too far and an inmate dies the others realise their time is probably short. Goldie in particular is convinced there’s only one way off The Farm, and that’s in a coffin. He’s determined it’s not going to happen to him and begins to plan his escape. But there’s Alpha in the way, a man who’s slowly going off the rails. Can Murphy and Rossi find the boys before another is murdered?

Luca Veste, once a reviewer here at Crime Fiction Lover, made his debut with Dead Gone, a smash hit praised by the likes of Mark Billingham, no less. As the first book, Murphy is still suffering the after effects of a huge personal loss, rebuilding a shattered marriage which teeters on a knife edge. Rossi lives a solitary life. All she has besides the job are her close knit Italian family. Unlike Murphy she has commitment issues. Once a relationship moves beyond the initial stages and looks like it may get serious, she’s off.

The Dying Place is divided into two arcs – a past and a present – which eventually collide. Murphy and Rossi exist in the present. Initially there’s barely enough to do at the station, and the narrative pacing reflects this. Goldie’s story is in the past, when he’s taken from the streets. Here the pacing is quite different, and as the young man learns what he’s got himself into the tension increases. Murphy and Rossi’s work situation alters as soon as Hughes is discovered dead. As they begin to investigate and comprehend what’s going on in the youthful underbelly of society, Goldie continues to experience life at The Farm, and in this part of the story Hughes is still alive. It’s smartly done.

Additional well constructed elements are the location; the author is Liverpudlian and clearly knows his home ground. This provides a powerful backdrop, particularly later on when events spill out onto the streets. And then there’s the psychological element. Again the author draws on his knowledge – this time his study of criminology – to add layers. It’s easy to see why Veste has recently signed a multi-book deal with a major publishing house. The only issue is that some of the editing could have been better, particularly with reference to repetitive language.


CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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