Avon | 2017 (19 October) | 464p | Review copy | Buy the book
Manchester’s gangsters are no strangers to violence and crime but the tables have been turned. A series of brutal robberies, with criminals as the victims, has the city’s biggest gangs reeling. DC Lucy Clayburn has firsthand experience of just how dangerous these streets can be but she is determined to sweep them clean. It doesn’t matter to her that one of Manchester’s most infamous criminals is her father. That’s nobody’s business but her own. And when she manages to pull off a key arrest, Manchester’s elite Robbery Squad is keen to welcome her among their number. Perhaps now Lucy can really make a name for herself on her own terms. Solving the strange crimes that are shaking the foundations of Manchester’s crime world would be a very good start. But it could also be the end of her…
Shadows is only the second novel by Paul Finch to feature detective Lucy Clayburn but this is already a very strong series indeed. I loved Strangers, immediately falling for Lucy. She is a wonderful heroine – undoubtedly flawed and vulnerable but also courageous, stubborn, determined to stand alone, and resolute. Nobody understands crime like she does – she’s only had to observe her parents to see its effects – and she’s set on defeating it, bit by bit. She’s only a DC and so she does what she can, pounding the streets after insignificant lowlifes, but grabbing every chance she can get to strike higher up the criminal foodchain.
Lucy is fantastic to spend time with and in Shadows, as with Strangers, she’s given a story worthy of her. Much of this novel had me on the edge of my seat and I thoroughly enjoyed the twisty ways in which it developed. But it’s enriched by Lucy’s own unusual background, her self-doubt and her relationships with her family and other detectives. Life isn’t easy for Lucy but you sense that she thrives on this police role that she’s shaping for herself in her own unique way.
The Manchester setting is great! I spent some time in its clubs and neighbourhoods as a teenager and Paul Finch’s portrait of it feels so possible and authentic, frightening yet also alive. The policing is also well done and the investigations – and competition for results – are exhausting. I must admit that I’m normally not a fan of gangster books in the least and so I initially had my doubts about this series but these have proven unfounded. This is largely due to the strong storytelling and Lucy herself. The policing is what dominates here. There is nothing glamorous in the portrayal of Manchester’s controlling bullies.
I’m a big fan of Paul Finch’s other longer-established detective series featuring Heck. But, if it isn’t heresy to say so, I’m starting to think that these Lucy Clayburn books are even better – for their Manchester setting and feel but also for the character of Lucy. She is so well-drawn, unusual and likeable. I hope to spend much more time in her company over the years to come.
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