Written by Rachel Abbott — This is an author who never ceases to surprise her readers, which is why her self-published books are such a huge hit with an ever-growing fanbase. Come a Little Closer is number eight in the DCI Tom Douglas series and definitely the best so far.
It takes a fair while before we see hide or hair of Douglas, though. He doesn’t make an appearance until chapter five, but by then Abbott has built up a compelling and confounding web of intrigue.
Sharon is enjoying a girls’ night out. Probably a little too much, if she’s honest. That overindulgence leads her to forget her soon-to-be-husband Jez as she throws caution to the wind and agrees an assignation with a stranger she meets in a bar. The decision takes her to a car park at Pennington Flash, a country park and local beauty spot. It’s dark, and as she waits alone she begins to regret her earlier impetuosity and decides to hide. What happens next will haunt Sharon’s dreams.
Meanwhile, Callie is about to begin the trip of a lifetime, visiting Myanmar, where her beloved grandfather was stationed during World War II. It’s a trip in his honour and Callie should be remembering him, but her thoughts are filled with boyfriend Ian – the man who forbade her to go and whose overbearing, controlling behaviour is making her life a living hell. Still, she has a luxury cruise to look forward to, and Ian can’t spoil that… or can he?
At an unknown location, two women sit at either end of a small table, eating a meagre meal by the light of a single low-wattage bulb. Conversation is sparse and the pair seem listless and without hope. Who are they and what is their part in this intriguing tale?
It’s bitterly cold and there’s snow on the ground when Tom Douglas is called to a birdwatching hide at Pennington Flash. Inside is the body of a young woman, wearing outdated clothes, with no shoes, handbag, phone or other belongings and no immediate clue as to how she died. Douglas and his heavily pregnant sidekick, DI Becky Robinson are stumped. It is only by a stroke of luck that they will eventually discover the young woman’s identity.
The frustrations of the investigation are interspersed with chapters featuring Callie and the two unnamed women. Callie’s trip improves when she is befriended by an elderly couple who are also from the Manchester area. Thea in particular lends a sympathetic ear to the young woman’s woes, while her husband Garrick is a courteous but mainly silent companion. As Ian’s demands become more and more intrusive, Callie is glad to have a friendly shoulder to cry on and she and Thea promise to keep in touch after their holiday. But if Callie thinks things are bad now, she is in for a nasty shock.
Come a Little Closer is a nifty combination of domestic noir and police procedural, with the narrative gliding smoothly between the two. There are a number of engaging storylines at play here, and as the pieces begin to fall into place you’re likely to need some stop-and-reflect time. At the heart of everything is Tom Douglas, whose personal life is always an integral part of the story. It’s a roller coaster ride, as ever, with a couple of heart-stopping moments to keep the blood racing.
I felt that Abbott had taken her foot off the gas a little with the last in the series, The Sixth Window, but Come a Little Closer has her firing on all cylinders again. I’m already eagerly awaiting book nine!
CFL Rating: 4 Stars