Source: Review copy, Netgalley
Publication: 6th February 2020 from Raven Books
As the country bakes under the relentless summer sun, a young doctor is found brutally murdered at his home in a picturesque Cambridgeshire village.
Is his death connected to his private life – or his professional one?
Dr Joshua Ainsworth worked at an all-female detention centre, one still recovering from a major scandal a few years before. Was he the whistle-blower – or an instigator?
As Detective Sergeant Ferreira and Detective Inspector Zigic begin to painstakingly reconstruct Dr Ainsworth’s last days, they uncover yet more secrets and more suspects. But this isn’t the only case that’s demanding their attention – a violent criminal has been released on a technicality and the police force know he will strike again: the only question is who will be his first victim.
There are two writers who are never less than razor sharp when it comes to marrying crime fiction with contemporary societal concerns and whose books are a must read when they come out. Sarah Hilary is one; Eva Dolan the other.
I love Dolan’s writing; whether stand-alone like the excellent This Is How It Ends or part of a series. Between Two Evils is the 5th in the Zigic and Ferreira series and a welcome return to these two excellent characters.
D.S. Mel Ferreira is still smouldering, six months afterwards, over the closure of the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit and her and D.I. Dushan Zigic’s assimilation into CID.
Still, the case they are given to handle falls squarely into their previous comfort zone. Dr Joshua Ainsworth has been brutally murdered. He was employed at the controversial and scandal-ridden Long Fleet Removal Centre – a facility for women awaiting deportation. It’s possible that his job was not related to his death but his employment at Long Fleet’s controversial past certainly gives Zigic and Ferreira cause for thought.
Long Fleet has had a contentious existence. Run by private contractors, it has been plagued by accusations of racism, sexual assault and other abuses of power. Staff have been the subject of targetted leaflet campaigns and the centre attracts a substantial ongoing protest lobby. Ainsworth was part of the medical team looking after the women and children and he too has suffered abuse from the protestors, who have gone so far as to identify him in their literature.
James Hammond, the new boss of Long Fleet prides himself on being the new broom sweeping clean, and so Zigic and Ferreira’s enquiries are about as welcome as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Chief Superintendent Riggott, ever keen to please his political superiors, warns Zigic and Ferreira off, but of course life isn’t quite that simple. To add insult to injury Lee Walton an especially nasty, violent serial rapist has been released from prison on a technicality. It’s only a matter of time before he commits another abusive act, but this time he will strike close to home.
This novel works because Dolan focuses on characters and character development, inculcating the societal issues she is dealing with through the lived experience of Zigic, Ferreira and others. We know only too well how awful these detention centres are and what abuses are perpetrated against women and children at the time when they are most vulnerable.
Dolan’s pen is delicate, yet savage as she portrays the potential for serial abuse that this country inflicts upon those who come here in fear for their lives, seeking refuge and asylum. She shows us how it must feel to be insecure, vulnerable and traumatised. Knowing that we are currently extending an unsavoury, racist policy to encompass many more people including those who have lived here all their lives, makes this story ever more poignant and tragic.
Dolan’s writing is finely honed and she tells her stories in such a personal way that the reader is caught up in these characters’ lives, understanding their emotions, feeling their fear and knowing that justice is a long way from their own experience of living in Britain.
She weaves her politically charged storylines together with a fine use of light and shade; providing substance in the fabric of her prose without compromising the skilled progression of this police procedural. Dolan is not only able to take a crime and make it both topical and fascinating, she is never predictable and the story evolves in ways that the reader does not expect.
Zigic and Ferreira are central to this approach. As we understand more of their own lives and backgrounds we understand what drives them and why they react as they do.We see the women in the detention centre through their eyes and that makes them human; unique personalities rather than just characters to whom ‘bad things happen’. These are complex, rounded individuals whose hopes and fears inform us as they search for answers to solve the current crime.
The secondary plot provides a faster paced and tension driven edge to the storyline, coupled with some surprising behaviour that puts Zigic front and centre of a difficult professional dilemma and causes some grief in his usually excellent relationship with Ferreira.
Verdict: Eva Dolan shows once again what a class act she is. Abuse of power, racism and corruption are tackled in a police procedural that resonates loud and strong, using character driven storytelling to shed a light on the powerful individual stories that come from the plight of asylum seekers and refugees in Britain. Stunning storytelling married with complex characterisation creates a winning crime combination and propels book this headlong into the ‘Must Read’ category.
Eva Dolan was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger for unpublished authors when only a teenager. The four novels in her Zigic and Ferreira series have been published to widespread critical acclaim: Tell No Tales and After You Die were shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award and After You Die was also longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. She lives in Cambridge.