Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 November 2021 from Wildfire
My thanks to James Oswald and Wildfire for an advance copy for review
On compassionate leave following the death of her mother, Detective Constable Constance Fairchild thought renting a cottage near Aberystwyth, Wales would get her far enough from London to finally relax. But trouble always seems to find Con, and it’s not long before she is cooling off in a police station cell after defending herself from two would-be rapists.
In custody she meets a young Ukrainian woman, Lila, who confides in Con that she’s been forced by her manipulative boyfriend into prostitution and running drugs. Fearing for her life, she has run away from him, only to end up in the cells.
Con offers to help, but when her cottage is ransacked, and Lila subsequently disappears, she realises she’s stumbled into very dangerous company. International drug smugglers and ruthless people traffickers – those who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets. Out here at the end of the line, will Con find that there’s nowhere left to run?
Is there such a thing as magnetic energy? If there is, I’m pretty sure Con Fairchild has it. Everywhere she goes, she attracts those whose energy has different vibrations. Sometimes these are good; as often pretty bad, but she is incapable of going through life unaffected by the energy that pulls on the warp and weft of the world.
As we meet her again at the beginning of Nowhere to Run, she is sorely in need of positive energy. Battered and bruised from everything she has experienced, she is suffering from PTSD and has taken compassionate leave combined with a sabbatical. She’s now camping out in a cottage on the rugged coat of Ceredigion, hoping that nature’s positive energy will work its own brand of magic on her troubled soul.
In the midst of all this it’s also pandemic time and so self- isolation is the norm and going back to work is not something anyone is thinking about, which is just as well.
If you are a fan of James Oswald, then you’ll be delighted to hear that Nowhere to Run is a full cream version of his love for the unknown and inexplicable. While we are treated to a full on contemporary police procedural with drama with danger, thrills and all the action you’d expect, we also are not allowed to forget that we are in a land of myths and magic; in the heart of Arthurian legends where the Mabinogion was born.
Because it is Con telling her own story, you feel immediately connected to her and can sense the trouble that runs through her soul. But although she is weakened and depleted by everything she has gone through (do read the first two books, you at the back) that does not stop her from wanting to help those who are so clearly in need.
So when she unwittingly falls foul of two local men and ends up in a jail cell with Lila, a young Ukranian woman, it is not long before Con finds herself at the dark heart of a criminal enterprise which involves, drugs, modern slavery and prostitution.
One of the great strengths of James Oswald’s books is his characters. Con has such a great background and that not only makes her stand out from the crowd, but it also gives her the potential for a lot of rather different relatives and we meet two of them in this book together with their splendidly name Gelert whose story is a legend in its own right.
Utilising all the dramatic terrain of the Welsh coastline with its caves and tunnels Oswald takes Con on a journey into the depths from which it is by no means clear that she can return unscathed. Moving from Wales to London and back again, Con is caught up in the action almost so much that she doesn’t have to think about anything else, but in the background, where not all of her colleagues are delighted to see he back in action, there’s a constant hum in the back of her mind about whether she wants to be doing what she does at all and that does haunt this book somewhat.
With touches of humour and lots of chills, this is a fantastic and fantastical read that leaps off the page and engages the imagination. I love Oswald’s style and don’t in the least mind that he makes my cerebral cortex light up in the strangest places.
Verdict: I stayed up into the wee small hours to finish this one because I could not wait to see how it ended. That, for me, is the hallmark of a cracking book and I have no higher praise than that.
James Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries, as well as the DC Constance Fairchild series. James’s first two books, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls, were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. James farms Highland cows by day and writes disturbing fiction by night.