Written by Liz Mistry — Bradford, 5 November 1998 and Sadia Hussain is at a bonfire night celebration with her best friend, Jessica, which goes horribly wrong. Jessica’s mother, Millie Green, burns to death, witnessed by Jessica’s half brother, Shahid and Sadia’s policeman father.
Fast forward to 2016 and each of their lives has changed immeasurably, still blighted by the unsolved death of Millie. Sadia is now a sergeant, having followed in her father’s footsteps. He, in turn, has risen to the rank of Superintendent. Shahid is a criminal, selling drugs and pimping women and Jessica is a prostitute. The only constant is that Jessica still hates Sadia and blames the Hussains for her mother’s untimely death.
It seems there is a serial killer stalking the streets of Bradford, murdering the city’s prostitutes and DI Gus McGuire is struggling to track the murderer down. Two girls have already been found dead and mutilated, in a particularly graphic fashion. Jessica unwittingly stumbles across a third corpse, which turns out to be that of her best friend and housemate, Trixie. She was in a relationship with Shahid. The prostitutes worked for Shahid and his rival, Bazza Green. The police believe there may be a turf war underway, although both Green and Shahid deny it.
However, there is a new power in town. A Polish gang, led by the mysterious Old Man and the strong arm of Anastazy are trying to muscle in on the action, providing cheap girls and mixing up what was peace between Shahid and Bazza.
To add to Gus’ troubles he’s just had a bigoted new member to his team, DC Brighton, forced upon him by Superintendent Hussain. Also, he is in a secret relationship with Sadia and someone is trying to smoke them out. Can Gus and Sadia find the killer before they strike again?
This is Liz Mistry’s second novel and a commendable follow up to her debut, Unquiet Souls. Before proceeding there is a point to stress. The copy reviewed here was a largely unedited advance reader copy, and the issues within did detract from the reading experience.
However, at heart is a strong story, very good characters and the highly colourful backdrop of Bradford where the author creates a particularly interesting sense of place, a real mix of cultures and behaviours. Gus McGuire as a character has developed since the previous instalment. He has a lot of baggage, from a previous case and family strife – his wife betrayed him, leaving to move in with Gus’ sister. And there’s Gus’ father who is the local pathologist, always trying to interfere in Gus’ life, albeit in a positive way. The relationship with Sadia and, in turn, with her oppressive and highly religious (plus somewhat shady) father also adds depth.
A lot happens in this novel. If you are the sort of reader who likes multiple story arcs from a variety of perspectives following a large list of characters with interwoven stories then you will enjoy Uncoiled Lies. All in all the author has produced a solid novel which is worth tracking down and taking the time over.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars