No Name Lane by Howard Linskey

3 Mins read

“Suffer the little children to come unto me,” is the New Testament phrase that drives the serial killer in this book. The faceless, deluded murderer of young girls sees it as an invitation to send the poor victims to the ‘safety’ of heaven and as a justification for such heinous acts. So far, his tally numbers four. All of them have been taken, strangled, and their bodies dumped. Now another girl has disappeared and the police are no nearer to finding out the identity of the perpetrator.

Pressure is being brought to bear from on high, but how can they find the killer when they have nothing to go on and when the investigation team seems to be carrying so much dead weight? The chance to offload the slackers comes when a body is found at the site of the excavation for a school extension. A garbled phone message taken by DC Ian Bradshaw sends the major incident team to the scene, certain they have the body of the Reaper’s latest victim in their sights; instead, they find the old bones of a long ago crime. As a punishment, Bradshaw is one of the no-mark, of no account officers given the thankless task of working out the skeleton’s identity.

We learn that recent events have forced this detective into the wilderness, and as the tale progresses more and more details about his fall from grace are revealed. Can he regain the respect and trust of his colleagues? Can he even be bothered to do so?

Bradshaw’s tale is but one facet of this gem of a book. National newspaper reporter Tom Carney is another major player in a novel that takes police procedural, serial killer, whodunnit and thriller and melds them together into a wholly satisfying concoction. Tom is still on probation at ‘The Paper’, as his irascible editor insists the rag be called, but his future looks gold plated when he stumbles upon a front page story about a government minister who  loves to spout about family values, but who is secretly seeing a string of call girls on the sly.

So Tom gets his dreamt-of front page byline but unfortunately said minister has friends in high places and an unlimited legal budget, so the young reporter is cast out into the wilderness on gardening leave. That wilderness just happens to be his home village of Great Middleton – the very place where the last young girl went missing and where the skeleton has been found. Tom was once the star reporter on the local newspaper – can he use his local knowledge to find the exclusive to set his career back on track? He enlists the help of Helen Norton, current incumbent of the job he used to have at the Durham Messenger and the pair make an impressive team. In fact, they’ve soon found out who the old bones belong to, but why he was killed, and who killed him, is another story strand what will have you tied up in knots.

A former journalist himself, Linskey certainly has the inside track on how newspapers work, regardless of their shape, size or colour of politics. This was a part of the book that I particularly enjoyed. All of the characters are complex, flawed and eminently human – I could name several I’d like to have a pint with down the pub. Be prepared for plenty of twists, turns and dead ends before the light dawns at the end of No Name Lane.

How it all comes together is not something I’m going to share here, because I’d hate to spoil your reading enjoyment. Instead, you should to grab a copy of No Name Lane at the first opportunity.

We interviewed North East author Howard Linskey a few years ago and you can read that here. Also see our reviews of The Damage and The Drop.


CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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