- Book: Close to Home
- Location: Oxford
- Author: Cara Hunter
Ian Rankin, who never gives quotes, has described this book as ‘a gripping, mazey story’.
Eight year old Daisy Mason has gone missing and is presumed dead by the investigating team, and increasingly by the vocal Twitter debate raging in the background.
Her parents were having a party in the garden, with many of the neighbours invited. The accompanying children were to come in fancy dress, and Daisy – true to her name – was seemingly due to attend in a daisy costume. Or was she? People believe they saw her there, her parents confirm her return from school shortly before the start of the party…but the people who actually saw her are hard to track down.
The family dynamics are probed, and her father Barry, mother Sharon and brother Leo do not withstand too much scrutiny – Barry is sly and perhaps unfaithful, and there is a whiff of child abuse; Sharon is most concerned with how she is perceived, a true social climber; and Leo is a young man who clearly has issues. Flashbacks also show that Daisy isn’t the delightful child one might imagine. A manipulative young lady living in an über-tidy daisy-themed bedroom could get the most amateur of Freudians hypothesising….
The Mason family is not a wholesome example of family values. The author clearly must have had fun dreaming up the essentially rather loathsome adults, but by not giving them some quirks and foibles, they are a little too simple and two dimensional, and just too easy to dislike. A little more complexity would have worked wonders for me. In DI Adam Fawley by contrast, Cara Hunter has created a more sympathetic and rounded man, deeply wounded, as he tries to recover from the fairly recent bereavement of his own son, Jake.
The author is incredibly adept at leading the reader through the “mazey” investigation, sliding in clues, and keeping her storyline pitch perfect. The narrative swings this way and that, all at a manageable pace, with a twist at the end.
In the Acknowledgements the author says of the Oxford location: Oxford must be one of the most fictionalised cities in the world, so you can imagine my trepidation in daring to add to the number of novels – and specifically crime novels written about the place I’m lucky enough to live in. I hope the Oxford of Close to Home will ring true to anyone who knows it, and my readers will certainly be able to find many of the roads and buildings I mention on a map of the city – though it is also worth noting that many of the side streets and other specific locations are my own invention.
This is a featured read in the Spring 2018 of the Richard and Judy Book Club and well deserves its place. I very much look forward to DI Adam Fawley thriller 2 – In the Dark – coming out in July 2018.