Book Review: The Girl They All Forgot by Martin Edwards

Dagger and Edgar award-winning author Martin Edwards takes readers back to The Lake District after seven years with a cunningly layered mystery. Don't miss Doreen Sheridan's review of The Girl They All Forgot!

It’s been long enough that Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett no longer views her assignment to head Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team as a demotion from regular policing. Now, with the election of new Police and Crime Commissioner Kit Gleadall, Hannah has some hope that her overstretched team—about to be taxed further by the temporary leave-taking of two of her expectant staff members—will finally get some reinforcements after years of austerity.

Of course, not everyone in the constabulary is as optimistic regarding the new guy’s abilities. Her co-worker Les Bryant has his doubts as to the efficacy of a rich man dabbling in politics:

“You reckon this job is just a rich man’s fancy? Serve for four years and then bugger off to do something more exotic?”

 

Hannah spread her arms. “Your guess is as good as mine. He’s not your typical public servant. My hunch is that achieving things is what turns him on. Making a difference. He’s ticked all the boxes in the private sector. Now he’s strutting on a bigger stage.”

 

“The shine will wear off soon enough.” It never took long for Les’s inner sceptic to reassert itself.

Thus, no one is very surprised when the new PCC insists that the team look into an old case that has attracted significant media attention in the wake of new developments off the Crooked Shore. A man named Darren Lace has taken his own life in the very same place his father had twenty years earlier. Gerry Lace had been accused of murdering and hiding the body of young barmaid Ramona Smith. Though he was acquitted in a court of law, the dark shadow of suspicion long lingered over him, leading to his eventual suicide. He left behind a fractured, heartbroken family. 

Two decades on, Darren’s devastated ex is spearheading efforts to get the case reopened and the real culprit brought to justice so that the Lace family can finally find some peace. To this end, Jade Hughes is happy to draw as much media attention to the topic as possible, loudly criticizing the Cumbria Constabulary’s handling of the case under Hannah’s old mentor, Ben Kind. PCC Gleadall is savvy enough to know that this criticism needs to be headed off at the pass, so he has Hannah re-examine what truly happened to Ramona all those years ago.

Even as Hannah is contending with the presence and attention of her charismatic new overseer, she’s also reevaluating her continuing relationship with her long-term boyfriend, former television presenter turned successful author Daniel Kind: 

Since his return from America, she’d seemed distant, more like a passing acquaintance than a lover. His fault for going away for so long. Or maybe her quietness was due to her absorption in this latest cold case. A major enquiry put extra strain on her because she took such a hands-on role. With so much mental and physical energy committed to an investigation, there wasn’t much room to spare for fun. Or even him.

Daniel tries to be understanding. Being her former mentor’s son, he’s used to the demands that the job places on police officers’ families. He’s also personally invested in her quest to defend his father against the press, especially since Ben is no longer around to defend himself. Ironically, Ben fell victim to a still-unsolved hit and run, leaving behind lingering questions and regrets for Daniel and Hannah both. But not even Daniel’s empathy can leave him entirely unsusceptible when an alluring figure comes into his life while Hannah is so preoccupied with her own.

Intertwined with all this is the story of Kingsley Melton, the sad-sack property manager and the last person to see Darren Lace alive. Unwilling to get involved with the police again after his own less than positive brush with them immediately after Ramona’s disappearance, Kingsley finds himself compelled to seek Daniel’s help when a homicidal figure from his past unexpectedly reappears.

The way all these stories come together had me gasping in surprise more than once. The twists played out masterfully under Martin Edward’s command. The deft construction of this fair-play mystery was truly a joy to experience, as the pieces laid out by several cunning minds—including that of the author himself—fall into gorgeous, devastating place. 

The Girl They All Forgot is one of the smartest mysteries I’ve read in a while. While it is the eighth in the Lake District mystery series, it’s a highly accessible jumping-on point for newcomers to the series, and highly recommended by this newcomer herself for readers old and new.

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