Reviewer: Linda Hepworth
Publisher: Avon (Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd) 14th October 2021
ISBN: 978-0008484088 PB
TRICK OR TREAT?
When six-year-old Marcus is taken from outside his house on Halloween it shakes his quiet neighbourhood to the
core. Everyone was ready for a night of trick-or-treating. Now the unthinkable has happened.
TRUTH OR LIES?
As Detective Imogen Grey arrives to question Marcus’s parents, they tell her there has been a mistake. Their son
is just fine. But if that’s true, where is Marcus?
INNOCENT OR GUILTY?
Imogen becomes locked in a race against time to find the missing child and uncover the truth. Can she discover
what’s happened to Marcus before it’s too late?
Although the mystery surrounding the kidnapping of Marcus, and the increasingly frantic search to find him, is
central to this novel, it is the number of inter-linked strands which thread through it which make it a satisfyingly
tension-filled psychological thriller, rather than just a straightforward police procedural story. DS Imogen Grey’s
determination to follow her instincts as she attempts to uncover the truth behind the kidnapping of Marcus, and to
finally expose the perpetrator, gradually exposes layers of deceit which, via many labyrinthine twist and turns,
will confirm she was right to do so. Although there were a couple of occasions when I thought this aspect of the
storyline relied a little too heavily on convenient coincidences, I found there was enough credibility in the
outcome to enable me to suspend disbelief quite easily! I thought that the author very effectively captured the
roller-coaster of emotions which must affect any parent whose child has been abducted … the panic, the fear, the
struggle to hold onto hope as the days pass by without the child being found … as well as the increasing pressure
on police officers, who are all too well aware that with each day that passes the likelihood of a successful outcome
The other major strand to the story involves Imogen’s long-term boyfriend, Adrian Miles, who until a year ago,
had been a fellow police officer, However, following a five-hour long brutal attack in which he was repeatedly
raped, he resigned from the force and is now working for a private-investigation firm. He is still struggling to
come to terms with what happened to him. Unable to let go of feelings of shame and a belief that he should have
been able to fight back, or to acknowledge the emotional turmoil and vulnerability he’s feeling and to trust that
friends and colleagues will both believe him and be sympathetic, he’s never been able to seek help or to tell
Imogen the truth about what happened. All she knows is that his behaviour has changed, that he is avoiding both
physical and emotional intimacy and yet continues to deny that there is anything wrong.
As a consequence their relationship is becoming increasingly strained and, as most of the story is told from both perspectives, the
reader becomes aware of the emotional distress each of them is experiencing. It’s seldom that an account of
sexual assault and rape is ever told from the perspective of a male victim and I was very impressed with the
author’s insightful, sensitive portrayal of Adrian’s struggles to seek the help and support he needs. Although there
were moments when I found this strand of the story very disturbing, particularly the descriptions of the assault, it
added a psychological integrity which I very much appreciated.
Another linking strand features teenager Jason, the first character we meet, who, in the process of burgling the
house opposite Marcus’s home, notices a white van outside, with two men sitting in it and a gun on the dashboard.
As they seem to be watching the boy cycling up and down the quiet cul-de-sac, he takes a few photos of the men
and, as they began to pull balaclavas over their faces, decides he needs to dial 999 and anonymously report what
he’s seeing. As he’s speaking to the operator he sees one of the men grabbing Marcus and putting him in the back
of the van. After stressing the need for the police to hurry, and without mentioning that he has taken photographs,
Jason flees the scene before the police arrive. We soon learn that his elder brother is about to be released from
prison and his father, a petty criminal whom he hasn’t seen for seven years, has suddenly reappeared. When Jason
tells him about the photos he’d taken it’s immediately clear that his father sees an opportunity to take advantage!
Jason doesn’t want to end up in prison like his father and brother but, as the story progresses, we watch as he
struggles between family loyalty and wanting to do the right thing. I found myself becoming very fond of him,
and rooting for him as he battled with his conscience!
I was a bit concerned when I realised that this is the seventh story in in the DS Imogen Grey series and wondered
if this would make it difficult to fully engage with it. However, although it would probably have felt more
satisfying had I read the previous books in the series, if only to gain more insight into how the close personal, as
well as professional, relationship between Imogen and Adrian had come about, there were certainly enough clues
about the back story to make it easy to read as a stand-alone story. Given the credibility of the character
development, the complex, tension-filled plot and the author’s immediately engaging writing-style, I’m now
feeling tempted to read the earlier stories and, given the final cliff-hanger sentence, to look out for the next one!