Source: Review copy
Publication: Constable (9 Aug. 2018)
Volatile times in the City of Discovery
DS Dania Gorska is a stranger in a foreign land. Born in Poland and transferred from London to Dundee’s specialist crime division, she is called upon to investigate a series of grotesque killings where the victims are first brutally murdered and then displayed in a bizarre manner. Although seemingly unrelated, clues point to the victims having been members of a local druidic cult.
While solving these murders is Dania’s priority, she finds herself increasingly drawn to the case of two runaway teenage girls. But when she learns they were also members of the same druid group she becomes convinced their disappearance is linked to the murders.
And, despite what the evidence suggests, Dania starts to fear that the girls have not run away but are actually the newest, undiscovered victims of the killer . . .
Dundee is the setting for Hania Allen’s new detective series featuring Detective Sergeant Dania Gorska. Gorska is working in in Dundee’s Specialist Crime Division, having transferred out of the Met following the failure of her marriage. She moves into her brother Marek’s flat. Marek Gorski, a journalist, is attractive and unattached and the pair get on well flat sharing.
Set against the backdrop of the Brexit vote, Dania and Marek are not immune from the more ugly displays of racism and Dania finds that though she makes friends easily, not everyone in the West Bell Street station is as welcoming as she would have hoped, though that may be down to the competition for promotion possibilities. DI Blair Chirnside is her boss and appears happy to have another capable D.S. in his team.
When the body of university lecturer Judith Johnstone is found dressed as a scarecrow Dania is put on the investigation. This turns out to be the first in a series of macabre murders, and suspicion begins to fall on a local druidic chapter.
Despite a lack of strong forensic evidence, Dania is determined to solve the case, but she is also intrigued by the seemingly unconnected disappearance of two teenage girls.
Utilising the setting of Dundee and surrounding Tayside to her advantage, Allen takes us on a tour of the city and its underbelly as well as some of the lovely countryside.
With a decent amount of tension and some well plotted misdirects, Hania Allen has created a well fleshed out and interesting plot with a central protagonist you want to know more about. The addition of a journalist brother is also a bonus as it allows for more unorthodox methods of investigation when the plot calls for it, though Dania herself is not always entirely by the book.
The setting, the political backdrop and the Polish heritage are all big plus points in making this a book you want to read and Allen’s characters are convincing.
I did find it slightly over-written and in need of more tension to keep the action propulsive, but all in all this was an excellent start to a new series I’ll want to read more of.
Verdict: Great debut of a promising new character in the tartan noir canon.
About Hania Allen
Hania Allen was born in Liverpool of Polish parents, and holds an honours degree and a doctorate, both in physics, from the University of St Andrews. As a child, she wanted to go into space and came a fair way (but not quite far enough) in the Project Juno competition to find Britain’s first astronaut. She has worked in education: as a physics researcher, a maths teacher, a research programmer, an IT officer, and finally in information management as part of the University of St Andrews’ senior management team, a post she left to write full-time.
When not writing, she indulges her other passion, music, and can be seen at her local cinema watching operas from the Met, or playing the piano with her musically gifted godchildren, making up for in enthusiasm what she lacks in talent. She has lived in Scotland for longer than she has lived anywhere else and loves the country and its people, despite the nine months of rain and three months of bad weather. She currently resides in a fishing village in Fife.