I would like to thank Net Galley and Harper Collins UK for the ARC of ‘The Girl Who Walked in The Shadows’ in exchange for my review.
This is the third book in Marnie Riches’ series featuring cleanliness obsessed protagonist Georgina McKenzie. With action flitting between London, Cambridge and Amsterdam, the fast paced story begins up with a nameless homeless man hunting down and attacking a man in a secluded London street. There is no clearly motive for the attack and his weapon of choice is seemingly one of opportunity, provided by the arctic weather conditions which are gripping Northern Europe and which also provide a perfect method of disposal of the weapon too.
George is now a fully qualified criminologist, conducting a study into human trafficking and child abuse, with a potential link to Roma children and abductions in Europe. She is hoping to convert it into a published paper before her rival, Dobkin from UCL can publish his own, very similar, study. It is two years since the action which occurred in book two and her relationship with Chief Inspector Paul Van den Bergen is very much hanging in the balance, with the veteran detective unable to accept that he can give George everything that she needs due to their age difference, and George too stubborn to let him go. Her personal life at home is being plagued by balancing her demanding mother, an errant father who now wants to make amends and a homeless woman who keeps demanding money from George and her well-meaning Aunt Sharon.
Van den Bergen has his own issues. With his nemesis Kamphuis promoted to Commissioner and Hasselblad now Chief of Police, his professional life is as complicated and miserable as his personal one. Faced with a mysterious death of an unidentified male in the freezing streets of Amsterdam with no sign of the murder weapon, it appears he cannot catch a break. When, during his investigation, it becomes clear that this is much more than just a drug deal gone south and that human trafficking and child abuse may be involved, he reaches out to George for help. She is hesitant to get involved initially but does give him one vital clue. A report on the murder in London by the mystery killer now being given the moniker Jack Frost due to his unusual choice of murder weapon. With such striking similarities between that murder, Van den Bergen’s investigation and the strange deaths of two men at the hands of an unknown assailant tagged ‘Krampus’, (their bodies are found by the Polar Bear enclosure in a closed Berlin Zoo which is quite fitting given the sub-zero temperatures), George and Van den Bergen are finally reunited, their search for the truth taking them on a difficult and unexpected journey.
Interspersed with the murder investigations is the case of two young children, abducted from a suburb of Amsterdam during a brief moment of inattention by their stressed out father. He is devastated, a shell of a man given to wallowing in his pyjamas and bursting into tears while their mother seems outwardly unaffected as she conducts a one-woman publicity and public relations exercise to find her missing children. Initially the case is treated as a straight forward child abduction case, but soon the finger of suspicion points firmly at their parents. Why is the mother so cool about the whole situation? Did the Deenens have something to do with their children’s disappearance? And how does this all fit in with the series of murders plaguing the three cities. As the links between the stories unfurl, George is forced to face to people from her past that she had hoped to never see again. Danny Spencer and ‘The Duke.’
I have not read either of the first two books and was probably at a slight disadvantage because of it as I had to understand the complex links between the characters and the back story as to the relationship between George and Van den Bergen. That said, the writing was such that I was able to put the pieces together pretty quickly, with enough recap to give me the flavour of what had gone before without risking distancing readers more ‘in the know’.
The relationship between George and VDB was well written and completely believable in terms of a relationship spanning a large age gap as well as a large geographical one. I also enjoyed the way in which the supporting characters of Elvis and Marie and the gap that seems to exist between them and VDB which was exacerbated by his preoccupation with the job, his relationships with his daughter and George and grievous injury he had received. His lack of understanding of what was making them tick was extremely well observed. As for the Deenens, the cold and composed Gabi and the devastated and weak, Piet, the way in which they are written and the reactions of those around them due to the way they are portrayed in the media is so reminiscent of what you see almost every day. The trolling, the judgment, the impact it has on their slowly unravelling lives. It makes what happens later in the book all the more shocking and yet somehow understandable.
The pacing of this book was fast, the action easily linking from one city and location to the next. The story is gripping, heart wrenching, frustrating and intriguing in equal measure and I loved the fluid writing style, the way in which the prose captured the essence of the dark and cold winter and how this mirrored the dark nature of the story itself. It is not an easy subject to tackle; child abduction, human trafficking and murder, and yet it is extremely well handled. You are left with a mixture of pity and yet anger at the Deenens but still feel a certain amount of compassion for the situation they ultimately end up in. The conclusion to the investigation is somewhat surprising and yet satisfying, although you may be left feeling ‘The Duke’ has still to receive his dues, and the ultimate conclusion is just shocking enough to make you wonder whether there may just be another story in there somewhere, even just a little teeny tiny one.
I don’t believe any fans of the series would be disappointed with this novel. I certainly wasn’t and have immediately purchased the first two to see what I have missed. (I always do things the wrong way round – you’d think I’d learn.) I highly recommend this book. It is a great thriller with a number of complex and yet completely believable and accessible twists. I can’t wait to see what comes next.