In South Yorkshire during 1984 the miners were striking and the squeeze on small mining towns was being felt by everyone, not just the miners but the shopkeepers too as police were drafted in from other areas to keep the peace. Tensions mounted within small towns where some miners continued to work while others stood on the picket line.
Annie Howarth lives in a secluded large house on the edge of the moors with her daughter Elizabeth and her husband William who is the Chief of Police and his elderly mother Ethel. One morning Annie’s brother Johnnie brings some dreaded news, Tom Greenway, who had been her boyfriend ten years ago, has been released from prison returned to live in the area. Tom had been convicted of manslaughter and at that time William had provided a strong pair of arms to comfort Annie along with all the trappings of a world unimagined as she lived amongst the other miners with her parents.
This books starts by feeling like it is a romance with an edge with what I consider to be a realistic look at the life of a young married woman in the 1980’s. At that time if a woman didn’t work outside the home, she was dependent on her husband and while William provided the material things in life he was not the most exciting of life partners, either out policing or in his study, a place where Annie wasn’t welcome. Annie’s relationship with her parents and her peers was badly damaged by Tom being convicted of manslaughter and in a small town memories linger her only companions now are the worthy and the good, wives of William’s colleagues and I had some sympathy with the dreariness of her days.
This soon turns into a much darker tale with everything changing when a woman is found murdered up on the moors and William has a murder to solve as well as the logistical headache of policing the pickets at the colliery. Tensions run high and William becomes increasingly concerned for Annie’s safety while she is torn by her feelings for the newly returned Tom.
The characters were well-drawn, I particularly liked Ethel who was not immune to the fact that all was not rosy between her son and daughter-in-law and unwittingly spills secrets that perhaps a woman not gripped by dementia would have been left unsaid. I was less fond of Marie, Annie’s mother but again this was an accurate portrayal of a woman determined to keep the status quo amongst a long-fractured relationship with her daughter.
Louise Douglas ratchets up the tension carefully while staying firmly in the time period. There are frequent mentions of phone calls made from phone boxes, bands from this era along with the quaint notion of letters arranging meetings. By the time I was half-way through the book, I was sure I knew not only whodunit but why; I was totally off-track as the shocking ending revealed.
I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK for my copy of this book which was published on 14 August 2014.