By Michael Robotham; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
Two young women dominate this book: Evie Cormac, age unknown, incarcerated in Nottingham’s high-security children’s home, Langford Hall; and Jodie Sheehan, 15, a rising young figure skater found murdered in a wooded area of Nottingham.
The man who connects them both is forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven.
Langford Hall social worker Adam Guthrie thinks Evie is the most dangerous adolescent he’s ever encountered. She’s applied to the court to be released as an adult. Adam has brought in Cyrus to evaluate Evie and hopefully support Adam’s view that she needs to be sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Cyrus isn’t so sure.
Six years ago, Evie was found living in a secret room in a north London house only feet away from where police had found the decomposing body of a man who had been tied to a chair and brutally tortured to death months earlier. Evie had survived by sneaking out of the house, stealing food and sharing it with two Alsatian dogs kenneled in the garden behind the house. Her emaciated body showed signs of physical and sexual abuse.
Since being found, Evie has refused to speak of her birth family, how she came to the house or what happened to the dead man in the adjacent room. She has lost years of schooling, is dyslexic and has little experience interacting with others socially or managing her emotions.
Cyrus is on more familiar footing with Jodie’s murder investigation. The Nottingham police have brought him in as a consultant and profiler.
Jodie comes from an entirely different world than Evie. Petite and popular, she’s well liked by other students at her school and cheered on by the community hoping for her ever-greater success. Her uncle is her skating coach and her father, a cab driver, has sacrificed to provide the money for her skates, her costumes, travel and entry fees. A lot of hopes — her family’s and the community’s — ride on Jodie’s success in the rink.
Cyrus and Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Lenore “Lenny” Parvel soon discover Jodie isn’t quite what she seems. She has £6,000 in bank notes hidden in a flashlight in her locker. Her autopsy shows she was pregnant. Her older brother, who officially describes his work as “selling things” on Ebay, actually sells drugs, pornographic films and photos and recruits vulnerable runaways at bus stations to work in his dark empire. He also uses his sister to deliver drugs for upscale clients from time to time.
With the publicity surrounding Jodie’s death, Lenny is pressured by her highly political boss to solve the case quickly. She pulls in Craig Farley, 26, the man who found Jodie’s body while walking his dog. After hours of intense questioning, Farley breaks down and admits to parts of the crime. Lenny arrests him and charges him with murder.
Cyrus isn’t so sure that he’s guilty of murder. As Cyrus keeps digging at nagging questions, this mystery takes an unexpected turn and quickly becomes a high stakes thriller.
Cyrus is a quiet, thoughtful man with a bloody history. One day returning from football practice, he finds his parents and twin sisters murdered and his emotionless, bloodied brother sitting in the living room. His empathy was born in personal experience.
Evie is a haunting character. Highly intelligent and observant, aggressive in self-defense, little in her past has given her the idea that she has value. Cyrus is the ideal person to help prepare her for living in society.
There’s plenty here to support a robust series. There’s a suggestion that Evie is in danger from unknown people who took her from her birth family and killed the man she had been living with. The second book in the series, WHEN SHE WAS GOOD (2020), explores her past. The third book, LYING BESIDE YOU (2022), deals with Cyrus’ brother’s impending release from prison and request to live with Cyrus.
The Author: Michael Robotham (1960 – )
Michael Robotham is an Australian crime fiction writer and two-time winner of the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger award for best novel.
Before becoming a novelist full-time, Robotham worked as a reporter, editor, freelance writer and ghost-writer of celebrity “autobiographies” in the United Kingdom.
He is the author of the Joseph O’Laughlin series, the Cyrus Haven series and a number of stand-alone novels.
He is the father of Alexandra Hope Robotham, known professionally as Alex Hope, an Australian producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.