Behind Dead Eyes | Howard Linsky | 2016 | Michael Joseph | 464p | Review copy | Buy the book
The body of a young woman has been found, her face and identity cruelly burnt away. Another woman has disappeared, her father, once a well known local politician, is ready to do anything to find her. Detective Ian Bradshaw is tasked with both cases, one more officially than the other. Meanwhile, a man serving life for the brutal murder of his mistress down an infamous lovers’ lane, reaches out to true crime investigator Tom Carney as his last chance to prove his innocence. Journalist Helen Norton likewise has her hands full. She has uncovered a criminal conspiracy, feeding off political corruption, and the more she discovers the greater the threat to herself grows. Recently, Tom, Bradshaw and Helen successfully worked together on a case. They find themselves once again drawn together as their cases slowly show signs of a connection. Above all else, though, there is safety in numbers.
I haven’t yet read No Name Lane, the first in the series, but I didn’t find that this mattered at all, except for making me want to read it. Behind Dead Eyes is set in the north east of England during the 1990s and this time and location provides a great setting for the novel. Few people have mobiles, nobody’s walking around attached to tablets and smart phones, and the majority of investigative work is done on foot and not in front of a computer. But this is also a time with more than its fair share of sexism, corruption, with many a blind eye turned away. It works really well indeed and I also enjoyed the nostalgia element.
By focusing on three main characters, each with a different way of doing things, Howard Linsky is able to examine the cases from a broad range of perspectives, with the detective, investigator and journalist each following their own noses. Tom, Bradshaw and Helen certainly complement one another and, although there’s a touch of frisson between both men and Helen, this doesn’t get in the way of the developing relationships between all three. There are arguments but each has the others’ back and all three are going to need it. I think I particularly fell for Tom.
Behind Dead Eyes is a slow moving but involving novel, with each of its mysteries unwinding little by little, our three taking the time to mull over each of the clues in turn. Each of the cases takes its toll on Tom, Bradshaw and Helen. There are repercussions and watching how our three deal with it all forms a large part of the book’s appeal. Howard Linsky is such a good storyteller, with a fine eye for character and for motive. I think that the story of the convicted murderer is especially well done but I also really admired the way in which the missing girls’ story was unwound.
Howard Linsky has created an authentic, grimly fascinating and real world in which loose ends are a part of life and not everything can be neatly tied off. I have a new series to follow – and catch up on – I look forward to meeting our three again.