Harvill Secker | 2017 | 418p | Review copy | Buy the book
Finally, Corinne Sawyer is happy in herself. She looks the way she wants to look, she’s made the break from an unhappy past, and the future looks as if it will belong to her. And so, as she lies dying, murdered during her regular morning jog, her face pressed into muddy leaves, Corinne’s last thoughts are of regret for losing what she was never permitted to enjoy.
DI Zigic and DS Ferreira work for the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit and so can’t understand why they are called to the latest victim of a serial rapist who is terrorising the area. But Corinne is not quite what she first appears. Corinne was born Colin Sawyer and she is a prominent member of Peterborough’s trans community. There have been several recent attacks on trans women but nothing quite like this. Was Corinne attacked because she was a woman or because someone thought she wasn’t? But, whichever it is, the murder represents an escalation of violence that captures the imagination of the media and the public, and causes all sorts of problems for Mel Ferreira and Ziggy.
Watch Her Disappear is the fourth novel in Eva Dolan’s superb Zigic and Ferreira series. This really is a standout series not least because it tackles serious issues. Eva Dolan clearly cares a great deal about people who have found themselves marginalised. These books place them at the centre of our attention and more often than not it’s a troubling tale that ends in murder.
The Hate Crimes Unit is itself under threat in Watch Her Disappear. Ziggi and Mel feel a need to prove its worth to their superiors but sometimes Mel in particular is her own worst enemy. She gets too close and makes it personal. But Mel’s empathy and anger is also her strength. Ziggy is quieter and more centred – his private life is very different to Mel’s – but he lets nothing get in the way of his pursuit of justice, not even a crying baby keeping him up at all hours of the night. How I love these two! They are so different from each other but they work perfectly together. I love spending time with them. And in Watch Her Disappear, I think we see them at their very best.
Watch Her Disappear tells such a strong story and its characters are marvellous. Corinne’s family life is extraordinarily complicated and Eva Dolan untangles it with so much care. Her wife and children are wrapped up in the most difficult conflicting feelings. Corinne – and Colin – is almost lost in the mess. It’s up to Ziggy and Mel to unravel the truth but none of it is easy. But throughout we want to learn about Corinne. She demands to be brought back to life.
The novel has such breadth to it. The investigation is so fascinating but this is broadened out to cover the whole trans community and it is a compelling picture, full of colourful personalities and, by contrast, withdrawn and secretive individuals. It’s clear that the community is under attack, but so too is society as a whole, and there is more than one crime for Ziggy and Mel to solve.
Eva Dolan is a fine writer. She knows full well how to plot a satisfying and involving mystery but she is also brilliant at creating characters we care about or, if needs be, despise. I don’t know Peterborough at all but I do enjoy it as a setting – it’s certainly out of the way of many other crime series. These books now go straight to the top of my TBR pile and Watch Her Disappear, which is quite possibly the best, demonstrates why better than ever.
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