I always know I’m in good hands when I pick up a Cath Staincliffe novel. She combines excellent writing with a clear-eyed view of contemporary issues and I love her Manchester setting. Quiet Acts of Violence begins with the death of a baby, Rosa named after the street on which she’s found inside an industrial-sized bin. Detectives DI Donna Bell and DC Jade Bradshaw begin the search for the mother, questioning residents and business owners on the busy street.
This is an environment of Super Saver shops and greasy Chuckie Chicken takeaways. Staincliffe sensitively portrays the raft of characters who live in the area from Colette the homeless woman shunted around the B and Bs of Manchester who discovers the child, to the Romanian car wash attendants working subsistence level jobs who are reluctant to involve themselves in a police investigation.
The book is a follow-up to The Girl in the Green Dress and I can see why Staincliffe’s readers wanted more of Donna and Jade. Donna with five children and a husband, Jim, who is recovering from injury is a strong protagonist juggling responsibility both at home and at work. The story of Jim facing the inquest into the death of a man he accidentally killed while driving is a moving sub-plot. Jade with her fractured background is independent and suspicious of family ties although she finds them hard to shake off. Together the two women make an impressive team and show how meticulous policing and insights into the life of Manchester residents can provide the solution to the case.
I’ve already recommended the book to my creative writing students as I love how the police procedural aspect of the novel is combined with a portrayal of lives under pressure to create a compelling crime narrative. If you haven’t read Staincliffe’s books yet, here’s the place to start.