Robin Lyons has everything going for her; a job with the Metropolitan Police, a daughter successfully navigating private education, a long-term best friend, and a partner who thinks she’s wonderful. A disorderly conduct meeting later, she is unemployed, hasn’t bothered paying her parking tickets, and is forced to move from London to Birmingham back into her parent’s house. Her thirteen year old, Lennie, is taken away from her friends and the life she knows and understandably doesn’t react well, making Robin’s guilt over what happened stab deeper. She can’t find the chemistry to love the man who wants to love, provide and care for her, which adds to the guilt as he and her daughter got on so well, yet she chose to leave him. From the bunk beds they have to share in her parent’s spare room the atmosphere sits heavily, made worse by the near constant ability to be irritated with her mother. From her prestigious job, she has to take what she can, which turns out to be working for a friend catching benefit fraudsters in a private investigation agency. Her existence is in the process of change and everything is harder than it used to be. Life is about to get even worse when that fantastic best friend she had appears to have been murdered, her house set ablaze and her husband, the potential suspect, missing.

You can empathise to some extent with the difficulties Robin is facing, although hopefully most of us haven’t had it quite that bad all at once, even if it seems she has made some odd choices along the way, she explains herself well and I think she made them morally rather than emotionally. As a result I really wanted to see if, by the end of the book, her life would turn out for the better and even though I found her a difficult character to like at times, all the way through I was hoping for the best for her and her teenage daughter who was primarily a victim of her parental choices.

You can’t tell an ex-homicide detective not to get involved in their missing best friend, despite that no longer being Robin’s job to deal with, as well as emotionally maybe not best placed with the huge responsibility and the need to be unbiased about the evidence. What Robin’s job now is to do with is spending time sitting in her car bored, staking out people working while claiming to be too sick. The second strand of the story is also part of her private detective work, which involves a distressed parent with a missing daughter that they need to try and locate. When all is revealed, will these stories converge?

The book includes a splattering of quite funny humour, particularly in the beginning. I found the story slightly confusing initially, as there is a lot going on and quite a few people to get to know. The book didn’t really take off for me until the last quarter when I became really interested in the story and invested in extra reading to find out what was going to happen. My favourite aspects to the story were the way grief was portrayed and examined while still fitting the storyline all the way through and the personal strength that Robin has to achieve in a typical male dominated industry together with her bravery.

Helen Corton 3*

Critical Incidents by Lucie Whitehouse
Fourth Estate 9780008269036 pbk Dec 2019