‘Daisy in Chains’ by Sharon Bolton – How do you convince the world of your innocence when everyone believes you guilty?

Hamish Wolfe is a ruined man, a former Doctor serving a life sentence for the murder of young women he met on line. And like all good serial killers, especially good looking and charismatic ones like Hamish he has ‘fans’, women who are convinced that someone as perfect as Hamish must be innocent. He also has a ‘support group’, led by his mother, who are determined to see justice done because, as Hamish maintains, he is innocent. Wrongly convicted and sent to prison for something he could not possibly have done.

Maggie Rose is a lawyer who has a reputation for getting dubious convictions overturned. She investigates so called ‘miscarriages of justice’, cases where errors or suspect practices by the police guarantee that it is a case she will win, a case that she can turn into a best-selling book.

When Hamish’s mother first approaches Maggie, she is not convinced she should take the case. Every piece of evidence points towards him and there is little in his demeanour or his story which is able to convince her otherwise. There is only one small problem. One of the four women Hamish was suspected of killing was never found. Could she be the key to proving his innocence or his guilt? She is intrigued by Hamish and begins to investigate is story, but will she find enough to make him another statistic in her pile of successfully overturned convictions?

For me, ‘Daisy In Chains’ was an intriguing read. It is a slow burner of a novel. Aside from Hamish who is potentially in jail for a crime he did not commit, there is no real sense of jeopardy for any of the characters. The four women are dead and with Hamish in jail, no further abductions have taken place and there is no reason to suspect any more will. While Maggie Rose as one point seems to have an unwanted visitor, the sense of overall threat is not overwhelming or heart stopping. Instead what you get is more of a psychological tale, one of a man trying to convince others of his innocence and the ongoing thought processes of a lawyer who may prove his saviour and yet clearly has an untold tale of her own. Why on earth, for example, would she choose to have blue hair? (Random)

While the murders are not pleasant, they are also not shown or described in detail as they are all historical. The narrative is told through a series of present day interactions and snippets of reports, newspaper articles, letters and journal entries from a number of the key characters including, Hamish and Maggie Rose. At times the action is quick, the riot in the prison or the scene at the fairground where Maggie is confronted by one of Hamish’s groupies. At other times it is more leisurely as we read the supporting articles and letters between Hamish and his ‘love’.

The central characters of Hamish, Maggie and DS Pete Weston, who is the man who caught and built the case against Hamish, are all very different. Hamish is initially hard to like, maybe as a result of the barriers he has put up to protect himself in prison, but partly because he comes across as an ass. His views on ‘fat’ girls, his actions at college and his superior attitude do make it hard to really feel for him. If he is innocent, then it is a true shame, however Bolton has done a great job of creating a character who is so blasé about defending himself, smooth, calm and distant it is hard to believe there has been any miscarriage at all. He almost seems borderline sociopath and if it wasn’t for his apparently true feelings about his dog, you would wonder if he had any redeeming qualities. Maggie is an enigma. A reclusive lawyer who does not play well with others and cares only about the holes in the case, not the guilt or innocence of those she would defend. Again she is quite restrained, clearly hiding something and hard to get to know or like. She saves a dog, all be it through misunderstanding, so she can’t be all bad. Of all of the characters, Weston is probably the easiest to like, but even his motives and actions are brought into question at one stage.

I have been up and down in how I feel about this book. It is extremely well written, the characters well observed and the setting atmospheric and even chilling at times. There is real tension as the story builds, as the suspicion falls from one person to another, and a twist in the tale that is perhaps not as surprising as it should have been but still very effective.

I would give ‘Daisy In Chains’ 4.5 stars but only because it is perhaps just a little slower in pace than I am used to. Still a very strong and thoroughly enjoyable tale. Thank you to Net Galley and publishers Random House UK for the advance copy in exchange for my review.