Watch Her Disappear

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Watch Her Disappear, Eva DolanWritten by Eva Dolan — When we reviewed our former contributor Eva Dolan’s first novel, Long Way Home, in 2014, she was the new voice in British crime writing. With her fourth book hitting the shelves, she’s become an established author producing some of the best socially aware crime fiction – the kind you should be reading.

A serial rapist is attacking women in Peterborough, four so far. When the body of a woman is found by a river, strangled using her own headphone cord, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira of the Hate Crimes Unit are surprised to be handed the case instead of it going to CID. However, the murder fits perfectly within their remit. The victim, Corinne Sawyer, is transgender and was born Colin Sawyer. Was she targeted because of this? Or has the rapist taken a step on to murder? It is up to the man-woman investigative duo to find out.

DS Colleen Murray has been working the rape case for CID and she’s convinced she has her man, a guy called Walton. He’s violent and has a history of beating his girlfriends, but they’re always too scared to testify against him. Murray is moved over to Hate Crimes because of the potential connection between the investigations. However, Zigic is keen to work the evidence and that means not jumping to conclusions.

Corinne had a complex family life. Married for years to Nina, as Colin she fathered two children. Zigic and Ferreira visit Nina, who’s now living with Corrine’s best friend, Brynn. It’s clear Nina hated Corinne and all she’d put her through.

Zigic and Ferreira come across a support group run by Evelyn Goddard where transgender people can spend time with similar people and feel comfortable. It transpires that at the last meeting, Corinne was involved in an altercation with a passer-by. Their investigation soon turns up several other attacks on cross-dressing men, all of whom attend the support group. Ferreira believes that the men who were attacked are the key. When she attempts to interview them she gets little useful information. They’re scared of their secrets coming out into the open and Goddard is doing her best to control the situation, her desire to see the attacker caught marred by her past experiences of prejudice.

Watch Her Disappear works easily enough as a standalone, and deals with a number of difficult subjects besides rape and murder. Gender reassignment and the stigma attached to the process underlie the sharp and snappy narrative, and the author succinctly handles the topic without drifting into melodrama.

This is cleverly constructed, character-driven, process orientated police procedural. Zigic is a recent father, worn out and under pressure – internal affairs are investigating him for a procedural transgression during a previous case, something Zigic feels was justified as they got their man. However, internal affairs don’t see it that way. Ferreira can be a very loose cannon, taking stimulants and sleeping with a senior officer. She adds the colour to Zigic’s grey and keeps him going when he is in a rut.

A compelling page-turner that will appeal to any reader who enjoys detailed, step-by-step police investigations, Watch Her Disappear does get complex here and there. The number of names involved makes it difficult to recall who is who – all of the transgender people and cross dressers have two identities, male and female. But it’s an entertaining and sensitively written book, part of what is becoming a significant series in British crime fiction.

Harvill Secker

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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