Book review: Wrong Place by Michelle Davies

Wrong Place by Michelle Davies
Wrong Place by Michelle Davies

Hot on the heels of last year’s impressive debut, Gone Astray, Michelle Davies is back in Buckinghamshire with her dogged detective Maggie Neville for another gripping police mystery.

Inspired by an interview with missing Ben Needham’s mother Kerry in 1991, freelance journalist Davies has created a unique and compelling new crime protagonist… a Family Liaison Officer, a specially trained detective who helps a victim’s family in the critical first hours after an incident.

This officer is the ear on the ground, the person who hears the family’s theories about what they think happened… and who must judge whether one of them could have committed the crime.

In her new case, Maggie – a woman who harbours family secrets of her own – investigates the brutal assaults of two women and becomes convinced that the truth of both cases is buried in the past.

Two women lie critically injured in the same hospital… both are subjects of police investigations. One is 71-year-old Sadie Cardle, a grandmother who has been assaulted in her own home.

The police suspect she is the fifth victim of a young couple who are targeting vulnerable pensioners but Sadie’s serious injuries indicate that there has been an escalation in violence from the two perpetrators.

The second woman is Eleanor Bramwell who has been stabbed by her husband Simon at their home. After stabbing Eleanor, Simon took an overdose but he failed in his attempt to kill himself and is now in a coma at the hospital.

Whilst there are no obvious parallels between the victims, Maggie Neville, who is involved in both cases, begins to question what really happened in the homes of the two women. Is it simply a case of both being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or is something far more sinister at play?

Davies has skilfully moved up from novice author to accomplished crime writer in the space of just two books… a feat achieved principally through superb police procedural detail, brilliant plotting and outstanding characterisation.

No player in this emotionally-charged drama is too small to deserve a credible identity, each fleshed out with the finest of detail and each creating fascinating sub-plots to a fast-moving story full of shocks, revelations and intriguing twists and turns.

But the star of the show is Maggie… the ups and downs of her complex, personal life providing the perfect foil for a professional career that faces the constant slings and arrows of always being on the fringes of a detective team run by an abrasive police sergeant.

And with Maggie’s third case already scheduled for next year, this is a series that looks set to run.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)