Paula Smith could have had it all. Hugely successful in her fashion business, she lives the kind of life she could never have imagined. Her world should have been an idyllic one if it weren’t for her husband Danny who is resentful of her success and increasingly prone to alcoholic rages. Paula knows she should leave him but she if she did, he would pick up the phone to the police and her life would come crashing down around her.
Sarah has found the kind of happiness with Martin she never thought possible. He is everything she could have wished for in a man. Caring, sensitive and loving, yet he has a secret that could threaten everything they share. But he is not the only one with a secret….
DI Annie Parker, mother, grandmother and widow, has plenty of baggage of her own, but she’s still determined to be the best police officer she can be. When she and her sergeant Nisha Patel hear about a 20-year-old murder that nobody knew about, nothing will stop them from tracking down the killer, even if it brings them up against one of the most dangerous crime families in the country.
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I am so not in the mood for this!
A silver Range Rover has slipped into the parking spot I am reversing into. The last space close enough to the supermarket entrance to avoid a long and slippery trudge over ice and snow.
‘You selfish bastard!’ I shout over my shoulder, as I hit the brakes – and the car horn.
A dark-haired lad in his late teens springs out of the driver’s side of the 4×4. He’s an Adonis. Tall, broad and way beyond handsome. Despite it being minus three, he’s in a skin-tight white T-shirt that shows off muscled arms, bouldered shoulders and a broad chest.
I roll down my window and shout, ‘Hey, I was going in there! You’ve taken my space.’
‘Then you should’ve been quicker, grandma,’ quips Adonis with a cheeky smile. ‘It’s mine now, innit?’
I want to kill him. And that’s despite the fact that I am a grandma. A very proud one – though I do quickly tell people that I’m only forty-four, which I’m sure is exceptionally young to be a grandparent. And secondly, he’s right, the parking place certainly is his. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, as I certainly know, given my particular line of work.
So, that should be the end of the matter.
But no bloody way is it going to be.
I get out and stomp towards him.
‘I’d like you to move your vehicle, please. You could see me backing in.’
He laughs in my reddened face. Not a slight snigger. Nor a cynical smirk. Oh no, this is a full-on chuckle.
The 4×4’s passenger door opens. An older man, with sandy hair, eases himself out. ‘What’s going on?’
‘Granny ’here is ’avin a laugh, i’n’t she?’ He nods in my direction. ‘Wants me to shift the motor coz she says she was ’ere first.’
‘I’m picking up medicine for my sick granddaughter,’ I announce, defiantly.
The passenger’s blue-grey eyes study me as he tugs on a brown leather jacket. ‘Do as she says,’ he tells his friend. ‘Get it moved.’
Adonis looks shocked. ‘What d’you mean?’
‘You heard me, thick lad, get it shifted.’
He thinks better of arguing and instead tells me, ‘Back up, then, or I can’t get out, can I?’
‘Thank you!’ I boom sarcastically.
As I get back in my car and start reversing, I guess the older man knows who I am. Right now, he’s probably telling his young friend my full and awful story. ‘That’s Annie Parker,’ he’ll be saying. ‘A year ago, her husband and daughter-in-law died in a car crash, not far from here. A bus driver fell asleep. Ploughed right into them. It tore the family apart. Her son had a mental breakdown and tried to kill himself. Now that poor bitch is looking after him and his little kiddie.’
I am getting a parking space out of pity.
It’s the last thing I want.
But I’ll take it.
Maybe it’s because we’ve just had Christmas and it’s close to the anniversary of their deaths, but right now everything seems to remind me of my husband, Jack, and daughter-in-law, Lily. I think the only reasons I don’t fall apart are the need to work for a living and to look after my son, Tom, and granddaughter, Polly.
The Range Rover reverses out quickly. Adonis slams it into first and sprays icy slush everywhere. A stupid, final gesture of anger.
And then a thought hits me.
I might have got this all wrong.
I hit a speed-dial number on my mobile and switch to hands-free as it connects. ‘Control, this is Detective Inspector Annie Parker. I need a PNC check on a licence plate. Registration Bravo, Mike, Zero, Two, Mike, Alpha, Mike.’
Before the reply comes, I’m forsaking the newly won space, slaloming around shoppers and heading for the exit.
‘DI Parker, the plates belong to a black Audi A6,’ says a male controller. ‘It’s registered to a Mark Andrew Mason and was reported stolen in Westminster.’
‘Then I need back up, please. I’m in my own car, a blue Golf, and in pursuit of a silver Range Rover bearing that registration.’
Pulling onto the main road, I catch a glimpse of the 4×4. It’s at a set of traffic lights, some five vehicles ahead.
‘DI Parker, this is Control. Please state your exact position so we can get officers to you. Over.’
The lights change, and traffic moves. ‘I’m at the crossroads of Vincent Street and Main Street, heading east, towards the A515. Over.’
There was something about the older man. What was it? Is he on a Wanted List? Have I seen his face on a recent police circular?
I just can’t place him.
We pass through another set of lights and turn onto a dual carriageway. The Range Rover shifts into the outside lane and glides away.
I glance at the speedo. My little car’s doing seventy, meaning their disappearing 4×4 must be clocking ninety, maybe a hundred. ‘Control, this is Annie Parker, I’m on the A515 heading south. Suspects’ vehicle is now doing excessive speed, and I am unable to keep up.’
‘DI Parker, this is Control. Two traffic vehicles are already dispatched.’
Colin Ronald Richardson.
That’s who he is!
It’s all coming back to me.
The last time I saw Richardson, I was a new PC, and part of an early morning raid that saw him pulled out of the scraggy bed of a very scared young hooker called Sharon Croft. Poor girl made the mistake of running for the bathroom, and a police dog bit her ankle and brought her down face first on the landing.
I call it in. ‘Control, I believe one of the suspects to be Colin Ronald Richardson, a known criminal who has in the past been armed. Please advise local CID and Tactical Firearms.’
‘Will do. Over.’
There’s a roundabout ahead, and the traffic is slowing. I have a siren, but I don’t want to use it. It would clear a path for me but also blow any chance of a covert follow.
I switch lanes as we slow to a halt, turn the wheel sharply and take the Golf up onto a grass verge, hoping to skip a good hundred metres of traffic.
The back end bumps up along the frozen turf and for a second the tyres spin. It’s a long time since I did my skid pan course but I remember not to accelerate too viciously. The car gains traction, and I start to make progress. Stranded drivers, amazed and enraged by my manoeuvre, blare their horns.
Up ahead, I see the end of the backed-up cars. And a problem.
The banking is cut off by a crash barrier.
I’m going to have to rejoin the traffic. And you can be absolutely certain no one is going to let me in.
At the last moment, I spot a gap.
A fanfare of horns accompanies my certifiably insane manoeuvre. But I get away with it and hit the roundabout traffic flow at about twenty miles an hour.
There’s no sign of the Range Rover.
It could have gone left, right or straight on.
I have no idea which exit to take.
I circle for the second time. Up on the brow of a hill, I catch a glimpse of a silver roof. I turn off and follow.
The chase is still on.’
If you’re a crime thriller reader, it’s always exciting to find a new detective you like, and DI Annie Parker is such a character. Reminiscent of ITV’s ‘Vera’, but more conventional, she has a family albeit one fractured with grief but she has the same tenacity, kind heart and innate skill of finding the truth.
The plot is deliciously sophisticated but easy to read. The main characters tell their stories in headed chapters. There are many connections and just as many twists as the plot weaves and intertwines seemingly separate characters and events. Historic and real-time stories make this absorbing, and the final court case chapters are authentic and suspenseful.
DI Annie Parker’s personal life gives essential insight into the woman who gives herself tirelessly to her career, the final scenes are beautifully poignant and provide an extra dimension to this fast-paced crime thriller.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
D.L. Michaels is a former award-winning TV executive, who married in Tuscany, has one teenage son and lives on an old converted farm in the Peak District. Favourite writers include Harlan Coben, Patricia Cornwell and Nicci French.