Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Special Girls – Isabelle Grey

Crime Fiction

Isabelle Grey has been brave in taking the contemporary issue of child abuse and grooming by those in power in The Special Girls. Not an easy topic by any standards and yet this only too believable tale doesn’t avoid the other side of this crime, those men that have been falsely accused in the full glare of the public eye.

Dr Tim Merrick, a young psychiatric registrar is found brutally murdered while supervising a camping trip of eight girls suffering with eating disorders, the main question being asked was why he wasn’t, as he was supposed to be, supervising the girls at the camp in Essex. The girls were chosen from Professor Edward “Ned” Chesham’s clinic at St Botolph’s hospital in London as those who had made good progress as a reward and a way of learning how to enjoy life with tree climbing, swimming in the lake and other healthy pursuits.

With the adults at the camp with a firm alibi Grace Fisher has no option to take a look at the young charges but with such fragile girls, they simply can’t be investigated in the normal manner which presents something of an issue for the capable Detective Inspector. With the motive unclear Grace does what she can to get the investigation off the ground, however she has barely started when she is asked to head up a Metropolitan Police review into a cold case involving Chesham himself called Operation Mayfly. Soon she is interviewing her old boss who ran the investigation into a sexual assault involving Chesham some twenty years ago.

I was delighted to see the unusual friendship witnessed in the previous two books in this series between Ivo the crime reporter on the Courier and Grace Fisher is still going strong even while questioning the wisdom of this pairing. It isn’t as though Grace isn’t aware of the recent phone hacking scandal and the resultant need to keep any contact between the Police and the press strictly above-board.

The Special Girls, while focussed on an uncomfortable subject has its attention on the effects of the crime rather than the details of the crime itself, except where absolutely necessary. The power games within the police are exposed because of the political hot potato that this particular crime has become which goes against Grace’s belief that the police are there to protect the public, not themselves. We also here from the father of one of the girls under Ned Chesham’s care, in what feels like an authentic look at life with a daughter with an eating disorder. None of the elements are overly laboured but together the political and the personal are built into a crime that is not only a whodunit but reflects contemporary views and issues in an incredibly effective manner.

There is of course a fair bit of Grace’s personal life which feeds back to the main story arc that began with her being ostracised by her old force when she made a complaint about another officer, one who happened to be her husband. This time around it seems as though Grace has finally found her feet but how far can she do to appease her superiors and protect those who she feels require it.

This series is definitely worth following and The Special Girls has ensured that it stays on my ‘must-read’ list as I can’t resist intelligent contemporary crime fiction which is based on proper research thereby avoiding the clichés that some in this genre space fall into. Not only that it was an interesting read with perfect pace and clever plotting without forgetting that readers love a cast of characters that they believe in.

The Special Girls will be published today 6 April 2017 by Quercus who allowed me to read an advance review copy of this book. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 6 April 2017
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous books by Isabelle Grey

The Bad Mother
Good Girls Don’t Die – Grace Fisher #1
Shot Through The Heart – Grace Fisher #2


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

19 thoughts on “The Special Girls – Isabelle Grey

  1. I usually steer clear of books that deal with child abuse, but reading on in your post I can see that that is not the main focus. I haven’t read any of this series (I seem to be saying that a lot just recently), but maybe I should. This one certainly interests me.


    1. I personally think this series hasn’t got the recognition it deserves. It is a difficult topic but presented in a way that shows the difficulties of pursuing historical enquiries as well as the possible outcomes for those involved if this doesn’t happen… lots to think about but none of the horrible stuff.


  2. That really is a difficult topic, Cleo. I’m glad it was handled sensitively and effectively here. It sounds as though the book moves along at a solid pace, too, and gives a good look at the characters without meandering too much. Glad you enjoyed it.


  3. Having been a social worker for 30 years, I saw my share of these kinds of child abuse cases…and tackling books about the topic are not for the faint of heart. But I still manage to do so…never tired of finding out more, and seeing how events are fictionalized. Thanks for sharing.


    1. It is particularly big news in the UK as there have been lots of high-profile investigations into historical abuse by those in powerful positions of one description or another – this book really did take a look from a number of perspectives.


  4. A difficult subject indeed, but it sounds like she’s handled it well. And I always like stories that have journalists in them – it feels more realistic for journalists to get involved in investigations than most other amateurs.


    1. I much prefer the ‘amateur’ to be a journalist too and it seems like a number of crime writers have cottoned onto this idea – the whole phone hacking scandal is referenced in the dealings Grace has with Ivo in this book which really adds to the contemporary feel.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I started reading your post thinking this book wasn’t for me. I’ve now changed my mind and would love to read it!


  6. It sounds like the author was able to handle the sensitive topic well and drawing focus on the case more than the crimes. Definitely intrigued by this series. Great review.


  7. A brave subject indeed – topical of course but easily mishandled. Your point about ‘proper research’ is likely to be what tips the balance between a novel that just rides a popular bandwagon and a novel (ie like this) that deals with a sensitive topic in an appropriate way


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