Monday, October 19, 2020

A Conspiracy of Silence (DI Gillian Marsh #5), by Anna Legat

Headline Accent, October 2020

DI Gillian Marsh takes on the case of Bradley Watson, found dead on the grouncds of prestigious private (in English parlance, "public") school, Whalehurst. He's the son of the groundskeeper, and for that last year and a half has been working as the groundskeeper's assistant. He also has a history of drug dealing, for which he has served time. Yet in the last couple of years, he's either gone straight, or become much more careful.

He also has a memory card in his pocket, with very stalkerish pictures of Rachel Snyder, a Whalehurst student who has diseappeared. The autopsy soon confirms that Watson died either the night she disappeared, or very early the next morning.

At Whalehurst, no one wants to talk. The headmaster, Dr. Featherstone, who might be expected to want to get to the bottom of this mystery to protect his charges, even attempts to bar the police from the grounds. What's going on?

Rachel's best friend, Rhiannon, insists they were never that close, and anyway had recently drifted apart. The boy she had introduced to her parents as her boyfriend, Josh, says much the same thing. What's "recently"? About three months ago. Rachel's parents agree that her behavior changed about three months ago. They thought it might be just normal teenage angst, but feared it might be drugs. Was she using? Was she dealing?

Meanwhile, Gillian's own grown daughter, Tara, and Tara's boyfriend, Charlie, are moving out of Gillian's house into Gillian's parents' house. Her mother has recently had a stroke; her father is in the early stages of dementia, and they are stridently refusing to accept help. So Tara approached them with the idea that they'd be doing her a real favor if she and Charlie could move in, since it's closer to the school where Tara teaches--Whalehurst. But Gillian has barely settled into having her house to herself, her cat Fritz, and her dog Corky, when DS Webber turns up on her doorstep, having been kicked out by his wife too late in the evening to get a room anywhere.

More directly relevant to the two probably-related cases, her boss, Detective Superintendent Scarfe, is adamant she can't investigate anything drug-related on this case because there's a higher-level drug gangs investigation going on and she'll interfere with it.

It's complex and chaotic, and she and her team are working hard to find the right threads to pull on, impose some order on the confusing evidence they have, and find out where Rachel is, and who killed Bradley Watson.

It's an interestingly complex story, with good character development, and a nicely nuanced portrayal of police trying to solve a serious crime while making it clear that police, and police institutions, are as human and flawed as any other people and organizations.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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