Who’s Watching Her?

Sexual predators stretch detectives to the limit in Joan Smith’s round-up

Sunday Times, 12 February 2017

In real life, the police are still catching up with new oppor­tunities for crime provided by the internet. Sexual predators are now able to target their ­victims online, a development that plays a key role in Stav Sherez’s chilling new novel, The Intrusions (Faber £12.99). The plot goes way beyond online harassment, opening up a nightmare world where young women can be observed at home by teenage boys and men via their computers.

Sherez’s likeable detectives, DI Carrigan and Sgt Geneva Miller, have no idea that such com­munities of voyeurs even exist. Carrigan is facing an internal inquiry into a case that featured in an earlier novel, and he’s ­distracted when a young woman reports the abduction of her friend from a bar in West London. Both girls suddenly felt unwell and staggered outside into an alley, where the witness saw her friend being helped into   the backof a van by a man she initially thought was a paramedic. That was three days ago and she’s heard nothing since.
The best crime novels are often at the cutting edge of rapid social change. The Intrusions forces Carrigan and Miller to catch up with sinister developments in internet surveillance, leading them to a sadistic killer. But it also demonstrates how easy it is for girls to disappear in a milieu where violence against women isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. Sympathy for victims is one of Sherez’s trademarks, and he is becoming one of the most humane and original voices in crime fiction.
Nuala Ellwood’s memor­able first novel, My Sister’s Bones (Viking £12.99), is about damaged people who fail to see what’s in front of them. The story is set largely on the Kent coast, where a war reporter, Kate, has returned to her childhood home following her mother’s death. Kate is suffering flashbacks to her dreadful experiences in Syria but she gets no respite in England, finding an alcoholic sister who has no contact with her grown-up daughter. Her brother-in-law seems to be at his wits’ end, offering support but revealing a neediness that makes Kate uncomfortable.
Sorting her mother’s effects brings back painful childhood memories of Kate’s father’s violence. As she takes pills to deal with insomnia and PTSD, she glimpses a child in the next-door garden where no children are said to live. No one believes her but Kate persists in asking questions, with jaw-dropping consequences. This is harrowing fiction that skilfully draws parallels between the effects of civil war and domestic violence.
The long-term impact of conflict is central to A Thousand Cuts (Bloomsbury £12.99), the latest in Thomas Mogford’s fine series of crime novels set in Gibraltar. His protagonist, Spike Sanguinetti, is an introspective lawyer whose habit of helping waifs and strays means his practice isn’t exactly thriving. In the new book, he takes on a particularly unappealing client, an alcoholic accused of harassing a local GP, and is reluctantly drawn into investigating the man’s troubled history. It seems to be connected with an incident in 1940, when a bomb was planted in the Rock’s naval dockyard and two British ­servicemen died in the blast.
A young Spaniard, who was known to have connections with supporters of Franco and Hitler, was tried and hanged. Sanguinetti begins to think the man was framed but his inquiries are interrupted by a series of brutal murders, one of them targeting the owner of his favourite ­restaurant. Gibraltar is a small place and Sanguinetti finds ­himself with a number of elderly suspects, including a close friend of his family. This is a traditional and ­thoroughly satisfying crime novel.
E O Chirovici is a journalist, originally from Romania, who lives in Brussels. The Book of Mirrors (Century £12.99) is his first novel written in English and it has been snapped up in almost 40 countries. The book is teasing and artfully constructed, telling the story of an unsolved murder from different perspectives. The victim, a preening psychology professor at Princeton, was blud­geoned to death in his isolated home back in 1987. Now a literary agent has been sent early chapters of a book, written by one
of the people most closely involved and promising to reveal the identity of the killer. But this is only the beginning in a twisty novel full of unexpected developments and untrust­worthy characters.

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