Since her writing took a little diversion from romantic comedy to crime, Carol Wyer has amassed an impressive roster of police procedural titles, all featuring female DIs. Robyn Carter was followed by Natalie Ward, and then troubled, grieving Kate Young stepped into the Staffordshire fray. Now it’s time to continue her story in book four of this complex series.
Kate is a widow. Her journalist husband Chris was shot dead on a train and his death has badly affected her mental health. Although he is gone, Chris still plays a big part in Kate’s story – and she talks to him incessantly, with Chris replying inside her head. Sometimes he makes perfect sense, at other times he criticises her, but the worst moments are when he refuses to speak, which worries Kate even more than the fact that she is holding actual conversations with a dead man.
In A Truth for a Truth, that changes after she kills her crooked boss in self defence. Now Supt John Dickson feels free to join in the chatter, gleefully baiting Kate and demeaning her efforts as she strives to hide her crime from her team. Which is a tough ask when Kate herself is asked to head up the investigation into Dickson’s disappearance.
Followers of this series know Dickson is a bad ‘un and throughout the previous books Kate has been working hard to get him bang to rights. Part of that plan was to send hard evidence of his wrongdoings to the press, and as this story begins Dickson is making front page headlines for all the wrong reasons. Which is why people think the corrupt cop has done a runner and is lying low until the heat dies down. Kate (and the readers) know this is complete balderdash – but can she keep her team away from the truth of the matter?
Killing the wily cop was never part of Kate’s remit, but her inner voices are insinuating that there are other bent officers intent on finding and supporting Dickson, who was the top dog of a feral pack of people traffickers, drug runners and sexual abusers. She may have got her number one enemy out of the picture – but are other, hidden forces out to get her too? You may be surprised. Meantime, Kate must wrestle with the thought that she has acted outside of the law… and as a dyed-in-the-wool straight arrow, she finds it increasingly difficult to cope.
A Truth for a Truth gets off to a somewhat pedestrian start, with Kate’s internal conflicts taking up page after page – and slowing down the pace in the process. There are chunks of narrative written in italics – a sure sign that we are hearing Kate’s ‘voices’ here. It’s a valiant attempt to portray a woman trying to put on a brave face while battling her inner demons but in truth, the voices are an irritant and become more annoying than enlightening.
But just when things appear lost, Wyer flips a switch and the story begins to make some sense and gather momentum – helped by the fact that the narrative speeds up too, creating a much more satisfying reading experience. Get past those early passages and you’ll be rewarded with some clever plotting, sharp characterisation and flashes of Wyer’s trademark spot-on sense of place.
The word is that this author is currently putting the finishing touches to book five of the series – and it is to be the last we will see of DI Kate Young. How will this tangled web of lies and grief unravel? We’ll just have to wait and find out…
For more police procedurals try Force of Hate by Graham Bartlett, set in Brighton, or Michael Pronko’s Azubu Getaway, set in Japan.
Thomas & Mercer
CFL Rating: 3 Stars