Author – Sharon Bolton
Published – 2 June 2016
Genre – Crime fiction
One of my favourite reads from 2015 was Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton and she is quickly becoming one of my favourite current authors, so I was keen to get my hands on her latest title. I can say straight away that this didn’t disappoint and is certain to be one of my favourite books of 2016.
The premise of the book is that Hamish Wolfe has been convicted of the abduction and murder of a number of young women. He’s good looking and charismatic and while this might have helped him gain the trust of his victims, it also means that he attracts the attention of women who are drawn to men behind bars. These admirers are convinced of his innocence and a small group forms, led by his own mother, to do whatever they can to get him freed.
This is where Maggie Rose comes in – a lawyer who is renowned for her true-crime investigations and her success at getting convictions overturned on appeal, Wolfe’s supporters set out to persuade her to champion his case. Reclusive and enigmatic she is reluctant to become involved – she only takes on cases that she can win.
I don’t like to give ‘spoilers’ in reviews and when I started the book all I knew was the title and the author but I probably can’t do much of a review without saying that Maggie does agree to consider Wolfe’s case. In doing so Maggie also attracts the attention of the local police force who were responsible for Wolfe’s arrest. Her initial dealings are with DS Pete Weston, the man who caught Wolfe, and they strike up an unlikely friendship – because if Maggie takes up Wolfe’s cause she will be trying to prove that Weston did something wrong.
The background to much of the story comes from letters, newspaper articles, reports and documents as well as Maggie’s own writing about how she has influenced other appeals, and some of her thought’s on Wolfe’s case. In fact the case against him does seem to have room for some doubt and as I read I was constantly changing my mind as to whether I thought he was or wasn’t guilty. When Maggie agrees to visit Wolfe in prison another dynamic is added to the story – will she be taken in, will she become one of his admirers?
The story explores some themes (like the women who fall for men behind bars) that I’ve not really come across in other crime fiction before. The ‘miscarriage of justice’ premise is not new but Maggie’s perspective and character certainly are. There is also something unusual and quite topical about the victims of Wolfe’s crimes in that they were all ‘larger’ women. While that links back to a time in Wolfe’s days as a student when he and his friends were involved in some unscrupulous activities, the reports and articles about the deaths reflect some of the issues around prejudice and social media.
The book is filled with a chilling atmosphere that Bolton weaves into the story (including an out of season fairground!!) and there are plenty of changes of pace with a mix of tension and action that kept me turning the pages. I was drawn in by the characters – Wolfe the charming killer, Maggie the petite, eccentric investigator, Weston the dependable and slightly downtrodden policeman. All of them with something at stake.
From the gripping opening to the action-packed climax this is a read that I can’t recommend highly enough. Twisty and devious this is bound to be a top read for lovers of crime fiction and psychological thrillers. It’s also a book that I want to go back and read again just so that I can see how Bolton managed to keep me guessing.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another point of view on Kate’s blog at For Winter Nights.