I really enjoy this series which initially followed the cases Dr Paula McGuire investigated as part of the Missing Persons Unit on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland. The idea of the unit was to overcome the problems of cross-border information exchange but sadly that has fallen away and now Paula is working as a consultant with the police in Northern Ireland.
Claire McGowan cleverly links the missing person in this book, Alice Morgan, an anorexia sufferer with the hunger strikes carried out in 1981 by political prisoners. Alice went missing on the doorstep of a church in Ballyterrin along with a holy relic – the bones of a saint also connected to hunger. Paula is called in to help out in the investigation swiftly, after all her father is a government minister and so despite the student at a private university having a history of disappearing, a search is launched. It doesn’t take too long before the team realise that another young girl went missing from the same church, on the same day, back in 1981.
Having set the scene for investigation we hear more from Alice herself, from her time in a hospital where she was receiving treatment for her anorexia, this makes for disturbing reading. We also have some excerpts from WhatsApp from her circle of close friends, friends who the police are sure know more than they are letting on. I do like it when books set in the present use technology that is popular, it certainly lends some authenticity to the plot.
This is probably has the most interwoven plot of the whole series and that is before we get to Paula’s private life which is going through some turbulence with a wedding to prepare for, a missing mother and a child with an unknown father, her life is anything but simple. I do like getting to know the chief protagonist of crime series and Claire McGowan gets the mix between the investigation and this aspect absolutely right, never forgetting that as much as we want to know more about these issues, it is a crime novel so overall that must be the focus. That said it is great to meet up with some old favourites and to see how life is treating them.
Overall this book was quite sad, the issues covered were executed extremely so well that they made me feel for the characters involved. With life switching between several different institutions; prison, hospital, university and the police it was hard not to compare how easy it is to manipulate those that are weaker, for whatever reason, by those who feel superior. With more than a handful of damaged souls I’m sure I won’t be the only reader that was misdirected very successfully by the author, more than once.
A satisfying and compelling read, if you haven’t read this series, I really do suggest that you start at the beginning and enjoy. If you have read the other books, I’m sure you don’t need me to urge you to get yourself a copy when it is published on 10 March 2016.
I’d like to thank the publisher Headline for allowing me to read a copy of this book prior to publication. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.
The Paula McGuire Series