Author: Claire Askew
Published: August 2020 by Hodder & Stoughton
Category: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Book Review
Robertson Bennet returns to Edinburgh after a 25-year absence in search of his parents and his inheritance. But both have disappeared. A quick, routine police check should be enough – and Detective Inspector Helen Birch has enough on her plate trying to help her brother, Charlie, after an assault in prison. But all her instincts tell her not to let this case go. And so she digs.
A seemingly very well-to-do Robertson Bennet has returned to Edinburgh after decades in America, with hopes of reconnecting with his parents. Unfortunately for him, they were nowhere to be found. He’d left home over thirty years ago after emptying his father’s bank account and never looked back until now. Ostensibly, he was back to reimburse his father.
In reality, Bennet’s life in California has taken a downward turn and he was hoping Detective Inspector Helen Birch would initiate a missing persons police search. Bennet convinced Birch by virtue of the fact his father had always been violent and he was concerned for his mother’s safety. Driving this was Bennet’s hope of claiming his inheritance.
Birch winced. ‘I was going to ask, Mr Bennet,’ she said. ‘I’m so sorry to have to do so, but — is it possible your parents could be deceased? I imagine they’d be quite elderly now.’
‘Don’t be sorry.’ Bennet waved a hand. ‘It was the very first thing I checked myself. But I can’t find any death records, any obituaries. Nothing like that. They’ll both be in their eighties now, so, sure, I knew that was a possibility. But they’re not dead, more’s the pity.’
The investigation into the disappearance of George and Euphemia (known as Phamie) MacDonald takes Helen and her DC, Amy Kato down unexpected and complex paths. As more becomes known about the couple they uncover domestic abuse and multiple murders among other things, with journal entries from Phamie to fill in some gaps.
Helen has a complicated past, with an absentee father and a brother who was missing for years and is now in prison. She and Amy have a good relationship, working well together and bringing their own strengths to the team. They are a perfect foil for each other. Helen tends to run determinedly with her instincts, despite her boss wanting her to leave the missing persons case to Amy. In this instance however her hunches proved to be worthwhile, uncovering much more than she and Amy had ever anticipated.
The addition of newspaper reports relating to past events is a nice touch and adds to the story as the search for George Bennet becomes more intense. The subject matter is dark and traumatic, handled with sensitivity. It’ll be interesting to see where Claire Askew takes the characters in their personal and professional lives.
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