Crimepieces’ guest reviewer, Rachel Hall, gives her opinion on Eva Dolan’s latest book which has been garnering rave reviews everywhere.
When Eva Dolan stormed onto the crime fiction market in 2014 she struck a chord with police procedural fans everywhere. With the introduction of DI Zigic and DS Ferreira who head up the Peterborough Hate Crimes Division, here was a series set to explore and exploit the differences which polarise us all. Timely, with a keen eye on contemporary politics Dolan cast her unremitting eye on rising racial tension in an age where austerity predominates and immigration and human trafficking are rife. Authentic and punchy with an edgy feel, she explored the darker elements of a modern day society that so many other authors fear to tread.
Whilst After You Die explores a slightly different element of harassment in the form of disability hate crime, all of the key components of a Zigic and Ferreira novel remain and this third outing is undoubtedly the most emotionally charged read of the series so far. This is the first mass market crime novel with the bravery to tackle disability hate crime head on that I have come across and, with her ever sensitive eye, it could be in no safer hands. Eva Dolan deserves top marks for her treatment of the subject matter and her exploration of the prevailing attitude towards the disabled and the related hate crimes amongst society is spot on.
Moving away from their more familiar stomping ground of Peterborough to the quiet village of Elton, Ferreira was called the previous summer to the house of single mother Dawn Prentice after she made several calls logging harassment complaints. As the mother of a severely disabled sixteen year old, Holly, Dawn detailed the harassment that the family were experiencing. With little substance to prove any of these complaints and no obvious suspect, Ferreira put the incidents to bed. When a gas leak in the house next door causes damage to Dawn’s home and forced entry becomes necessary, Dawn is found with multiple stab wounds clearly having bled to death and Holly has been left to die helpless upstairs.
Was Ferreira negligent in not taking Dawn’s accusations more seriously? Ever keen for an opportunity to beat herself up she is well aware that her own prejudices and uncomfortable attitude toward the severely disabled Holly clouded her approach to this case. When the question of who was the real target of this crime becomes central to making any headway, it becomes apparent that Ferreira spent little time speaking with the daughter on her initial visit to the house and the duo are forced to delve further into the lives of the family. Setting high standards for herself regarding her career, Ferreira is niggled by the feeling that perhaps she was was too quick to brush this matter aside and goes all out in seeking justice for the victims. Crucially, if Dawn were the intended victim did the killer even know Holly was upstairs?
Touching upon wider issues such as the right to die campaign and the life of a full time carer, this novel packs a weighty punch. Also central is the role of social media in the current age with both Dawn and Holly living rather fuller lives online. In proving that this case warrants being approached as a hate crime, Zigic and Ferreira are up against a ticking clock with DCS Riggott keen to hand the matter over to the remit of CID. With a leading suspect well known to another department of the force who seem keen to prevent contact, we soon learn that plenty of local residents have something to hide.
As with Dolan’s previous novels Long Way Home and Tell No Tales, the obvious rapport of the central detectives is pivotal to the success of this series, with Zigic the calming influence on his sometime rash and mouthy sergeant. With compelling back stories and interesting home lives the fact that they are so realistic and wonderfully humane, unfettered by the common stereotypes which abound in crime fiction detectives adds to their appeal.
Retaining the snappy dialogue and the hard-hitting subject matter which made the first two novels so compelling, this is Eva Dolan at her brilliant best. With a compulsive and addictively dark storyline, After You Die treads new ground in the crime fiction genre. Delivering plenty of twists along the way, Dolan draws her readers in with her irresistibly fluid writing style and never lets up from the off. Spending a few hours in the company of Zigic and Ferreira is a thrill ride readers won’t forget in a hurry and an unadulterated pleasure. Once again, Eva Dolan nails it with an emotive plot which strikes at the very heart of your emotions. Setting a high standard for the rest of the series Zigic and Ferreira clearly have plenty more cases in them and I await future outings with bated breath. Eva Dolan is a name every crime fiction fan needs to know.