Riot Act

By Zoë Sharp

While dog- and house-sitting for a former student, self-defense instructor Charlie Fox finds herself in the midst of a neighborhood in turmoil. 

The once desirable Lavender Garden estate has been stricken by a crime wave so bad local vigilante groups have formed. 

The residents council has hired a paramilitary organization, Streetwise Securities, to drive out the undesirables and restore peace and safety. They put the estate into a virtual lockdown.

Running an errand one foggy night, Charlie walks into a scene where two Streetwise employees are beating up a boy. Just as they turn their attention to Charlie, a Dutch-registered Grand Cherokee roars down the alley and rescues both Charlie and the boy.

To Charlie’s surprise, the driver is her former lover and Special Ops training instructor Sean Meyer. The boy is his brother. Charlie and Sean are forced into being distrustful partners as Lavender Garden grows more volatile and violent and a full blown riot seems inevitable.

This is a tightly written mystery that makes good use of Charlie’s backstory.  It adds to the history revealed in prior books but doesn’t completely pull the curtain on her past. It lacks the clumsy, pasted-on quality that some books in this series have as they reveal Charlie’s history.

This is a complex story with many social themes told in credible way.  It neither gets pedantic about the big issues nor simplistic about the personal ones. It reminds me of some of Elizabeth George’s mysteries that highlight social problems as a murder is investigated.
Although this is the second book in the series to be set in Lancaster, the author is avoiding what I call the “Midsummer Massacre Syndrome.” This is an affliction of an ongoing series set in a small community where the number of murders that occur per episode (or book) soon exceeds the population where these series are set. The syndrome is named for a British television series, “Midsomer Murders,” that has been airing on ITV since 1997 and is based on Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby series.

To learn more about the author and other books in the series, go here.


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