Written by Elizabeth Haynes — Fifteen-year-old Scarlett Rainsford disappeared in 2003 while on a family holiday in Rhodes. Ten years later, she’s reappeared in her home town, a fictional place outside of London called Briarstone. It’s just like any decent-sized town in Western Europe, and poor Scarlett is working in a brothel. Lou – DCI Louisa Smith – and her colleagues need to work out what happened to Scarlett in Greece, and where she’s spent the past 10 years, before the media find out the girl they’d given up on finding is no longer dead.
To complicate matters, a petty criminal with links to one of Briarstone’s organised crime groups is found dead, while another has been beaten to within an inch of his life. The attack might have been related to trafficking – either drugs or people. What Scarlett has been up to since she disappeared, and what connection she has to the local crime groups in Briarstone, is a puzzle that DCI Smith and her colleagues must put together. However, there are a number of missing pieces, unreliable witnesses, and Scarlett simply won’t talk. DCI Lou Smith, her analyst boyfriend Jason, DC Sam Hollands, and a hastily assembled group from Major Crimes, Special Branch and Social Services are left to dig through 10-year-old interview transcripts and trace back through all of the loose ends while trying to prevent Scarlett – the victim, and their only hope of finding a connection – from running away.
Haynes’ detailed depiction of police work, with its focus on close analysis of intelligence and the complex relationships between individual criminals and their gangs, is one of the strongest points of Behind Closed Doors. The investigation is methodical and precise, yet flawed when it encounters witnesses who for various reasons refuse to talk. The investigation also meets with the occasional piece of human error – the wrong questions asked, a name misspelt, conclusions jumped to, information withheld – all of which are factors that give the police investigation in Behind Closed Doors a feeling of reality, like these events could happen in any town in the world.
In the author’s note Haynes points out that human trafficking – where young women are abducted and smuggled across borders to work in slave-like conditions in brothels – happens all over the world. Scarlett’s story is not uncommon. Women and girls like this character go through hell, and many don’t make it out alive. It’s only through the kind of intense, detailed police work that Haynes portrays that they have any hope of rescue. Scarlett’s story makes for pretty harrowing read. Were it not for the intensely believable police characters, and the personal insight into their lives, Behind Closed Doors would be a very difficult book to finish.
Behind Closed Doors is a tale that needs to be told, and it’s told well. Parts of it will make you uncomfortable, but such discomfort is valuable in the way it tells a story of women who are so easily being ignored. This is a harrowing, intensely emotional novel that you won’t be able to forget.
Behind Closed Doors is released on 29 January. To read more reviews of books by this author click here.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars