Since first bursting onto the publishing scene with a true ghost story, Paranormal Intruder, the former police officer Caroline Mitchell has been one of the hardest working writers in the criminal fiction field. She started with DC Jennifer Knight, whose distinctive supernatural powers of perception led her to catch murderers who were not only demonic, they really were demons! I really loved her. One of the principal weaknesses addicts of detective fiction reveal is an allergic response to the paranormal.
I expect every keen reader of police detective novels has a personal police force. As we read different authors, we recruit some of their main characters and reject others: Cassie Maddox and Lacey Flint are outstanding officers on mine – but I’d not let ‘Scorcher’ Kennedy or Antoinette Conway into the squad room, or any of those gross middle-aged men with bad figures who do Andy Dalziel imitations in so many current procedurals. Mitchell prefers to limit her detectives to three outings: Jennifer Knight was succeeded by Ruby Preston, a detective with more conventional abilities though with some dubious relationships. I’d definitely want Knight on my squad but Preston failed her probational in Love You to Death. Now we have Amy Winter in Truth and Lies. Winter’s distinction is having biological parents who were serial killers: sort of like Fred and Ruth West. Amy’s father is dead, but her mother is serving a life-tariff. As Amy was adopted by a police detective’s family and took their name, the force don’t know her real biological inheritance. But now her real mother is trying to manipulate her by offering to shed light on some of their old murders. Professionally of course that is a no-no, but locating the remains of the victims to help their families assuage their grief is a morally acceptable justification for cutting corners.
And whilst Amy is dealing with her imperiously monstrous mother, a child goes missing along with her pet cat, which provides a motive to introduce another delightfully unusual investigator, a veterinary expert on feline forensics. That alone should make many of us want to read this book. In addition to the Jennifer Knight stories and Ruby Preston, Mitchell has written a could of stand-alones. Witness is a psychological abuse story and I hated it. Silent Victim is a school story about an abusive student/teacher relationship that quite gripped me. So I was not surprised that in Truth and Lies Caroline Mitchell let her plot run away with her, tying up more loose ends than were left undone in the first place. Still, it’s an excellent story, Amy is an appealing character, and her mother is someone you’ll love to hate. I shall give The Secret Child, the next in the series, a chance.