Review – ‘Dancers In The Wind’ by Anne Coates

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Detective Inspector Tom Jordan has a mission – to clean up the streets around Kings Cross, dealing with the prostitutes, vagrants, users and dealers one at a time. As successful as his undercover patrol teams had been, someone else seems to be helping a few of the prostitutes on their way by less natural means. Three women murdered in different and yet no less brutal ways. With a current media blackout in place, Jordan is looking for the one piece of evidence which could give him an insight into who is perpetrating these crimes, before any more young women fall prey to this vicious killer.

Hannah Weybridge is a freelance journalist, contacted by a national paper to write an article on prostitution around Kings Cross to run alongside a TV documentary about to be broadcast. As part of her article, she is introduced to young prostitute Princess, a girl whose tragic story is so typical of many women on the streets. Tough and yet frank talking, Princess gets under Hannah’s skin a little, making her determined to try and paint a more sympathetic picture of a girl whose life could have been so different if someone had only cared enough to help her. And the other side of her article – making the case for the police who are tackling the sin on the streets – is none other than the enigmatic DI Jordan.

When Princess turns up on Hannah’s doorstep, badly beaten and close to death, Hannah is drawn into a dark and violent world which she has no place being in. Because Princess has a secret, one she is too scared to share with Hannah or the police, especially Tom Jordan. Much smarter and more observant than people give her credit for, Princess has been keeping journals, and something within them may be just the clue that Jordan needs to find a killer.

Torn between helping Princess and keeping herself and her baby daughter safe, Hannah is uncertain where to turn. Princess is adamant that the police are not involved, fearing corruption on the inside. When Jordan contacts Hannah to see if she has heard from Princess who has been missing from the streets for days, she begins to wonder whether his involvement with the prostitutes is as altruistic as he would have her believe. Just why is he so keen to find Princess? And, as Princess disappears again and potential witnesses start to turn up dead, just how much danger is Hannah really in?

‘Dancers In The Wind’ is a great debut thriller from author Anne Coates. Taking the point of view of journalist Hannah rather than particularly from the police perspective it gives the story a different slant. Hannah is somewhere between a journalist, keen to expose the true story no matter what, and a mother, wanting to protect her daughter Elizabeth and yet feeling maternally towards Princess, knowing how easily her life could have been changed by a little love and care.

The premise of the story is not entirely new – prostitutes being murdered is sadly something all too believable, particularly in the time period this story is set, the early 1990’s. But the where, how and why is a little different. I won’t go into it too much here, but needless to say the people involved have a lot to lose. In some respects, this is an angle of the story I would have liked to have seen explored further, but it is perhaps good that it wasn’t. The nature of the deaths and Princess’s attack were particularly grizzly and too much detail would have spoilt the narrative. This book already has a few elements which are unsavoury, childhood abuse and neglect for one, but none are dealt with gratuitously.

The characters of Hannah and DI Jordan were both very well rounded. Hannah in particular was a very likeable character and I’m glad to see she is the focus of this series as her natural tendency to protect those around her is endearing, and yet her journalistic instincts push her to want to find the truth, no matter how dangerous it may be. She is not a natural investigative journalist, this comes across in the way Coates builds her character, but she is an idealistic one and her struggle between doing what is right and what is safe is written beautifully. As for Jordan, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. I kind of liked him, but I kind of didn’t trust him fully either. He was clearly intent on finding the truth, had a clear, if somewhat domineering attraction to Hannah, and yet was hiding something, holding back. Just what his level of involvement was in the crimes is not revealed until the end, and Coates does a great job of creating just enough doubt to keep you guessing to the end.

The story relies a lot on the relationship between Hannah and Princess as opposed to the police investigation, a relationship which is more of tolerance than trust. Princess is never truly open and honest with Hannah and Hannah has her own reasons for holding back from trusting Princess. And when Hannah’s private world and Princess collide, it leads to a whole new element of doubt and danger for Hannah. And it is perhaps this part which I would have liked to have seen explored further. The ending, whilst still keeping you on edge wondering how Hannah will get out of it, did seem a little too easy.

That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story. It was a pacey read, many of the chapters quite short to drive the story onwards. The plot was intriguing and the author drew me right in and kept me engaged with a good strong narrative. The setting, the seedier side of London, pre euro tunnel and pre mass mobile phone, worked well and I think with Hannah we have a character who has a lot of scope for future novels. I can’t wait to read the next one.

A very satisfied 4 stars.

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My thanks to NetGalley and publishers Urbane Publications for the copy of ‘Dancers In The Wind’ by Anne Coates in exchange for my review.

‘Dancers In The Wind’ is released today, 13th October and is available to order here:

Amazon UK

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