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by Clare Donoghue
Minotaur Books, June 2014
327 pages
ISBN: 1250046076

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

NEVER LOOK BACK may be Clare Donoghue's first novel, but in it she demonstrates why even its first few chapters were long-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger award. From the very beginning, Donoghue creates a taut atmosphere in which her characters - both victims and police - are pushed to their emotional and psychological edges.

A serial killer is on the loose in south London, and Detective Inspector Mike Lockyer can't deny that the latest victim bears an uncanny resemblance to his daughter. If that isn't unsettling enough, Donoghue runs a parallel tale of a woman made prisoner in her own home by a stalker, and we watch her downward spiral into depression as we also follow the increasingly frequent, brutal murders and are constantly reminded that time is running out before the killer strikes again.

In addition to watching Mike Lockyer work to solve the murders, we also see him dealing with family matters. He is separated from his wife, has a tenuous relationship with his daughter, and is caring for his autistic brother. In this and in his relationships with his team and the victims, we learn that Lockyer is all too human - and we like him all the better for it.

Throughout the novel, Donoghue never flinches from violence, nor does she take an easy route out of the twists of the plot she constructs, but those elements, along with her flawed hero and attention to detail, create a compellingly dark mystery that's hard to put down. Donoghue keeps the tension high throughout the novel by incrementally building up her main characters and parceling out information on a tight need-to-know basis. But Donoghue plays fair with the reader, always keeping in mind that the reader does need to know. Therefore, while much of the solution is a surprise, telltale signs let the reader guess at some of the outcomes and make the multitude of loose ends come together satisfactorily at the end. However, Donoghue then takes one step too far, visiting the murderer in prison and leaving the reader with a vague, unexplained reference that seems to add unnecessary confusion. Whether it's meant to be a tease into Donoghue's next novel or just an unsettling oddity is yet to be seen.

Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, May 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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