Written by Howard Linskey — It’s the hot English summer of 1976 and six ten-year-old school friends pay in the fields around the North East village of Maiden Hill, near Durham. Three boys, three girls. But only five of them go home when the sun sets. Little Susan Verity has disappeared without a trace. Someone is taking children and it seems Susan is another victim.
After a desperate search police finally catch who they think is their man, Adrian Wicklow confesses to Susan’s murder, along with the killing of three others. However, just as the case goes to court Wicklow withdraws the confession – he wasn’t responsible for Susan’s death. There’s insufficient evidence and her particular case remains unsolved. Wicklow goes to prison for life but never reveals where the bodies are buried. He remains an enignma.
The story shifts to 1996, and misfit Detective Sergeant Ian Bradshaw is handed a challenge by his superiors. Adrian Wicklow is dying and he says he will finally unload his secrets. Bradshaw investigates the old files, but there are reams and reams of spurious data. Next, Bradshaw heads to see the man who headed up the Susan Verity case, now retired DI Meade. He tells Bradshaw to be careful, that Wicklow is pure evil. Finally, Bradshaw has no choice, he visits Wicklow in prison and is drawn into a sick game – Wicklow has written a memoir and Bradshaw must read it and determine the killer’s motive. Only then will Wicklow talk.
Bradshaw realises he needs help. Freelance reporters Tom Carney and Helen Norton are a little down on their luck. The work they’ve gained after solving their last major case is drying up, money is tight. Bradshaw asks the pair to get involved and between them they interview the other children – now grown up – who were with Susan in her last hours. It seems the survivors have been cursed, their lives blighted by past events. But to Carney and Norton it soon becomes clear that something happened between the children, something that stayed a secret for 20 years…
This is the third novel to include Bradshaw, Carney and Norton and it follows No Name Lane and Behind Dead Eyes. The unique team makes a welcome return in another cleverly worked crime thriller. The combination of two investigative reporters with an outsider detective is unusual and works very well. Author Howard Linskey has steadily developed the characters during the series as well, building a will they / won’t they chemistry between Norton and Carney along with a strengthening respect for Bradshaw, who is unpopular among his sceptical colleagues.
There are multiple points of view through the narrative including flashbacks to 1976 and it would have been easy for the story to get lost. However, Linskey manages the strands well and keeps everything tight. The revelations keep flowing such that The Search is a real page turner. Wicklow himself is a superb character – he’s described as pure evil and he seems to be. Bradshaw gets sucked down into his world, an already troubled man sinking a little further. But again the author deals with this subject really well and the finale is cleverly done.
This is a smart procedural series with memorable, well rounded characters, excellently paced and with a compelling story to tell. The great news is that a fourth novel is on the way – the final page of the book reveals a blurb for The Disappeared. I, for one, can’t wait.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars