Two Evils | Mark Sennen | 2016 (24 March) | Avon | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book
A young boy, Jason, has vanished. He went out onto the mudflats close to Plymouth to collect bait to sell and he disappeared. Some might say that the sea got him but DI Charlotte Savage’s instinct tells her that someone has him. And when another child, Liam, is found dead in a tunnel, Savage has all of the confirmation she needs. But the pressure is on. Time is running out for Jason. But Charlotte has become too high profile of late for her superiors to allow her to work on such a media-crazed case. Instead, she is assigned a cold case. But when, reluctant and frustrated, Charlotte looks closer into the case, she discovers something that makes her suspect that there was another reason for her assignment. The past and the present are about to collide.
But it isn’t just boys who are disappearing. Adults have also been taken, tasered and stolen without trace. DS Riley is in charge of the case. There might be less pressure on him than there is on those investigating the missing and murdered children but, as Riley digs, the clues suggest a sinister link between these two high profile investigations.
And watching it all is the Shepherd.
Two Evils is the fifth novel in Mark Sennen’s series centred on DI Charlotte Savage. I haven’t read any of the previous novels and this didn’t at all affect my enjoyment of Two Evils. Having said that, though, if you don’t want to know what happened in the earlier books, I would advise caution. The events of the previous novel have had quite an impact on Devon’s police force and it’s discussed in Two Evils.
This is a novel that takes the reader into dark places and, although the series is set on Devon’s coastline, its locations are not sentimentalised. There is a stark beauty, though, and what feels like an inherent danger in its grey seas. The investigations are deeply involving, especially the case involving the children, and I must admit to finding it quite shocking. Some of what we witness, in both cases, is absolutely horrifying and it is described in such a powerful manner – made stark and terrible. It’s this tone and depth of feeling more than anything else that makes Two Evils stand out.
The narrative frequently returns to the Shepherd, a vengeful angel. These sections contrast vividly with the efforts of Charlotte Savage to discover the truth and, most importantly and urgently, find the boy. Savage is a thinker, independent, no nonsense, courageous and determined. Her relationships with her superiors and her fellow detectives is especially interesting and well developed.
I pride myself on quite often being able to guess whodunnit but I was outfoxed by Two Evils. I might have got some of it – one of the evils – but certainly not all of it. I really liked that. Two Evils has such a good story, albeit a harrowing and sad one. I enjoyed it and I look forward to following Charlotte Savage’s cases in the future.