She’s back! After an eight year absence – during which time Sharon Bolton has written several excellent standalone crime novels – Lacey Flint has returned in possibly her darkest and most dangerous case yet. It’s the fifth book in the series and after such a long wait, I’m pleased to report that I think it’s as good, maybe even better, than the previous four.
In The Dark, Lacey is still working as a police constable for the Metropolitan Police Marine Unit, not yet ready to consider going back to her old role as a detective. When a baby is snatched from its parents and thrown into the River Thames, Lacey is there to prevent a tragedy, but the incident leaves the police and the public shocked and confused. Who would want to harm an innocent baby? They don’t have to wait long for an answer; it soon emerges that the attack was carried out by a newly formed terrorist group calling themselves MenMatter. The group believe that men’s rights are being pushed aside and that women’s freedoms need to be restricted so that ‘natural order’ can be restored. The abduction of the baby was just the first of several terrorist attacks aimed at gaining publicity for their cause.
As DCI Mark Joesbury and his team at the London Met race against time to discover who is behind MenMatter, on the streets of London tensions between men and women begin to grow. It seems the terrorists are succeeding at creating fear and division; nobody is safe, but with her heroics on the river Lacey appears to have made herself a particular target. As she and Joesburys’ team try to identify the leaders of the group, Lacey discovers that her own secrets are at risk of being exposed. Can she help bring the criminals to justice while also ensuring that Joesbury never learns the truth about her past?
The Dark has a very topical plot; I’m sure it must have been inspired by the debate surrounding the murder of Sarah Everard in the UK last year, when questions were raised over the safety of women on the streets, as well as other 21st century policing problems such as the use of the dark web to plan and launch terrorist attacks and the growing online community of ‘incels’ (involuntary celibates). The scenarios Bolton describes seem almost dystopian but also frighteningly believable and possible. However, she doesn’t try to paint all men as misogynistic or violent and fans of the series will be pleased to know that Mark Joesbury is as wonderful as ever!
As well as some heart-stopping dramatic sequences which really made me fear for some of the characters’ lives, the novel also has a mystery element, with the police trying to uncover the identity of the incel leader behind the attacks. I had my suspicions and was proved to be correct, but that didn’t take away any of the tension as I waited to see when Lacey and the others would come to the same conclusion! It was particularly fascinating to watch Georgie, one of Joesbury’s team, use her knowledge of psychology and language patterns to form theories about online identities.
Of course, one of the highlights of the Lacey Flint series is Lacey Flint herself! In this book, Lacey’s secretive nature makes her particularly vulnerable and leads her to make some decisions that at first seem stupid and reckless but are actually the result of her desperation to conceal the truth about her troubled past. I wonder if this really is the last book in the series this time; it has quite a satisfying ending but there are still plenty of loose ends that haven’t been tied up and I would love to read more. On the other hand, I also love Sharon Bolton’s standalones so will be very happy to read whatever she writes next!
If you’re new to this series, you might like to start with the first book – Now You See Me.
Thanks to Orion for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.