I’ve been thinking about this review for a few days (and, yes, I am aware that I am late posting today). I was fully prepared to sit down and write a five-out-of-five-this-book-is-amazing review but then I started to relate this book to others in that genre that I have read, and I have read a lot. When I start a new crime series I can’t help but begin to compare it to my top three crime series that I avidly read no matter what (Post on this coming later). I realised, when I was thinking about how Wrong Place compares to the vast collection of other crime books that I have read, that this book, the main premise of the entire plot, is very very similar to one of my favourite books. I haven’t been able to get over it since I realised this. It’s a shame.
Despite its similarities to other crime books, the premise of this book feels very unique. It is not the usual body-in-the-woods plot that has become commonplace among noir and hardboiled crime fictions. It becomes a murder story, but it’s late coming and it works. Much of the story is focuses on DC Maggie Neville and her job as Family Liaison Officer to two very different cases; the first being several distraction burglaries, the latest the focus of her investigation as an elderly lady’s life hangs in the balance, the second; an attempted murder-suicide between a husband and wife. As is typical with most contemporary crime novels, both cases for the protagonist detective come crashing together with some interesting consequences.
Alongside the narrative focus on Maggie Neville, we are allowed to see into the life of Della, granddaughter to the elderly lady attacked in the distraction burglary and; Bea, guilty of the other distraction cases along with her no-good boyfriend (but not, interestingly, the latest one being investigated by Maggie) and Lou, Maggie’s hapless sister. This is a really interesting move on Michelle Davies’ part. The focus is shifted from one sub-storyline to the line at crucial, cliff-hanger style moments. The writing here hooks you in, you have to read on because each story line has you gripped. When the climax of each of these storylines comes, and they crash together all at once, it is a little bit exaggerated but in the context of the story, it works which shows the skill of Davies’ writing; she really keeps you on edge, keeping you cheering for Maggie Neville all the way until the end.
However, when we learn the truth about the case of Della’s missing mother and how the story relates to the attempted murder-suicide case, this is where the plot fell apart for me. The van crash at the start, we learn, is a flashback to the night that Della’s mother died and that it all happened because of a prank gone wrong. I won’t name the book that this reminds me of, because only the premise is similar, the rest is all very very different but the similarity made me sad but it didn’t feel unique, which is a shame. This is also true of the storyline involving Lou and her children; the fire at the house was inevitable; right from the word go with her story you knew it was coming. It wasn’t a surprise and it felt like a cop-out for a plot point.
Back to the positives; this book features a nearly all female cast! Most of the crime books that I read are dominated by male villains, male detectives, male superiors and a weak female victim. It is so refreshing to read a book in my favourite genre that turns the usual trend onto its head. Maggie is an unusual character is that she feels very normal, there is a pretty jarring backstory to her but it isn’t the enormous character flaw that so many other writers force onto their protagonists in order to make them seem more interesting. The presentation of Maggie is lovely to read, it makes for a nice break from some of the backstories out there.
On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It’s an easy read, I did it in two days. It is the second part of a growing series so if you’re like me and start with this one you’ll soon realise while reading it that there is a need to start at the beginning, which is where I will go once my uni reading is out of the way. It’s an exciting story with a refreshing set of characters and some interesting plot points.
Four out of five!