Penguin | 2019 (18 April) | 362p | Review copy | Buy the book
It is the Christmas holidays when two children are pulled from their burning home in north Oxford. The toddler is dead while his older brother is fighting for his life. The parents are missing. The father, an academic at Oxford University, is supposed to be in London presenting a lecture at a conference. He doesn’t show up and he’s not answering his phone. The mother is nowhere to be seen. The Esmond family seemed the perfect family but who knows what could have gone on behind closed doors? What could have gone so wrong? With theories and rumours more numerous than facts, DI Adam Fawley and his team have a struggle on their hands to uncover the truth. One thing is soon apparent – this was no accident.
No Way Out is the third novel by Cara Hunter to feature DI Adam Fawley but it’s the first I’ve read. There is a great deal going on in Fawley’s life, which means he’s emotionally distanced from the case, leaving much of it to his sergeants and constables. This would possibly mean more to readers who have read the previous two books but it didn’t affect my reading at all. It’s clear what’s going on. It did make me want to re-read the earlier books, though. There are little teasers about this – after all, the books are set in the small world of Oxford, where past crimes are not easily forgotten – but there’s nothing to spoil what’s happened before. But I’m intrigued!
As somebody new to the series, I found Adam Fawley rather hard to warm to but I think that’s because he’s so distracted by his troubled personal life. By contrast, I immediately fell for his team and we spend time with most of them as they do most of the work. The case is a terrible one with these poor children and it gets under their skin. They want to do what’s right by these young boys. Intensifying our empathy for what has happened, throughout the novel we spend time in the past with the Esmond family, getting to know them, as the days count down to the fire. It’s very effectively done.
I really enjoyed the way in which Cara Hunter inserts numerous reports, interviews, newspaper stories and so on, into the narrative. It adds an immediacy and also makes it feel very real and authentic. More than once characters are reminded that this is real life, not fiction – that this isn’t Inspector Morse. Although, the reader is bound to make parallels, especially as No Way Out features University academics and is set in leafy north Oxford. Despite this, there is a grittiness to the book and it feels like a genuine police investigation, with everybody doing their set jobs. This is a team effort and full of little details that keep the reader hooked.
I have to say something about the location because I know north Oxford extremely well indeed. I was worried about reading a novel set there but Cara Hunter does a good job, combining authentic places and names with imaginary streets. I wasn’t expecting No Way Out to come quite as close to home as it actually did! I almost dropped the book at one point in shock! But, otherwise, it was a lot of fun seeing places I know on the page and being able to recognise them.
I think that No Way Out is an excellent police procedural. It’s gripping and twisty but it doesn’t feel gimmicky or out to shock. It’s very well written and its setting in Oxford shows that there is still much more crime to be committed and solved in this small city! I’ll definitely be reading more.
I’m delighted to post this review as part of the Blog Tour. For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.