Daisy in Chains | Sharon Bolton | 2016 | Bantam Press | 352p | Review copy | Buy the book
Maggie Rose is reclusive, living a quiet life on the Somerset coast. She is also very well known as a lawyer and author of true crime. Her speciality is in defending the indefensible and to date she has fought successful campaigns for several convicted killers, responsible for their freedom and release back into the community. Hamish Wolfe is locked away on the Isle of Wight, convicted for the murder of three women. He is a handsome, charismatic man and his convictions have done nothing to stop the flow of fan mail to his cell, on the contrary. Hamish maintains his innocence. He persistently writes to Maggie Rose, asking for her help.
Hamish has many defenders on the outside, including his mother Sandra, and Maggie becomes their focus. Almost against her will, Maggie becomes interested, even more so as she digs into Hamish’s history, learning more about the three women he is accused of killing – three fat women. But, as Maggie becomes increasingly intrigued, will she be able to resist the charms of Hamish especially when they must meet face to face? Meanwhile, Detective Pete Weston follows developments very closely. He has good reason. Pete is the police officer responsible for Hamish’s conviction.
Sharon Bolton is one of those authors whose novels I have to read as soon as I can. The writing is always superb but so too is the quality of the mystery and the insight into the characters. Daisy in Chains is a stand alone novel and it bewitches from the opening pages, which immediately place Maggie in peril and set the atmosphere, and the pace, for the rest of the novel. Its grip is relentless. But it’s not just Maggie who fascinates, Hamish, too, is quite a character. Maggie has to decide how far she is prepared to fall for him – the reader must ask the same question of themselves. One of my favourite characters in the book, though, is Pete Weston. I loved how he develops through the novel, somehow pulling all of its many complicated strands together.
Daisy in Chains also boasts big themes, notably the way in which men and women perceive themselves and the prejudice that they face from society if they don’t fit or, alternatively, the rewards that they receive if they do. The victims of the killer were all large. This leads to awkward questions and at times the novel makes painful reading. It is very well done indeed. The novel also includes numerous extracts from letters, newspaper articles and other sources, including the draft of Maggie’s true crime account of the case, knowingly entitled ‘The Big, Bad Wolfe’.
Daisy in Chains contains some genuine jaw-dropping, blinking wildly and heart pumping moments. And, as you’d expect from Sharon Bolton, it is perfectly written as well. Crime thriller of the year? Definitely a contender. Bravo!
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