Written by Rachel Abbott — Never go down a dark country road with this author… you just know it is going to end in tears. In The Back Road, a young runaway is left for dead by a hit and run driver; in Stranger Child, the story opens with another harrowing scene.
Caroline Joseph is driving home from a family get-together, her beloved six-year-old daughter Natasha strapped up safe in the back seat. It is an icy, dark night and Caroline is not a confident night driver so when she comes upon a vehicle slewed across a country lane, she slams on the brakes and is about to get out of her car when her mobile rings. The unidentified voice urges Caroline to drive on, as fast as she can, and she complies. A fatal decision – the car skids on black ice and she is killed instantly.
But what of the child, Natasha? Well, here’s the rub. There is no trace of her in the car or anywhere nearby and after a couple of weeks the search is scaled down.
Moving on six years, and DCI Tom Douglas has a serious crime to solve. Someone has pinched his precious pig doorstop. Thoughts of such misdoings are forgotten when a more important call attracts his attention. The body of a young girl has been found in a remote woodland. She is about 12 years old, wearing an old fashioned white cotton nightie, and appears severely malnourished. Who is she and how did she get there?
Natasha Joseph’s name is on the list of possibles and her father, David, is contacted for a DNA sample. He has remarried, to Emma, and they have a baby son, Ollie. He hurries home to break the news to Emma – but she has news of her own, and a visitor. A bedraggled, uncommunicative female child has appeared without warning in Emma’s kitchen and seems in no hurry to leave. David takes one look at her and the penny drops – it’s Natasha, returned from the dead. She shrugs off his hugs and isn’t inclined to share her story either, only breaking her silence when the police are mentioned. No police, or else.
Never fear! You can’t have a police procedural without police, and Douglas and his team are soon involved, if covertly. When Ollie is put in danger, there is only one person Emma can think of turning to. They have a history, and reviving it creates a rich narrative vein which adds to the pace and unpredictability that Abbott fans know all too well – you’ll be well and truly flummoxed before everything falls into place.
Hugely successful self-published author Rachel Abbott made national news recently when Amazon announced that she had hit the million mark in book sales with her previous three books featuring DCI Douglas – Only The Innocent, the aforementioned The Back Road and Sleep Tight. It’s well deserved as her prose is taut and she has a knack of creating wholly believable locations – Manchester and Cheshire in this case – and a full cast bursting with engaging characters. Whether you’re already a fan or about to be introduced to Tom Douglas for the first time, this book will appeal – especially if you like sinuous police procedurals and thrillers.
Black Dot Publishing
CFL Rating: 4 Stars