The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman

The Blurb On The Back:

I’m not afraid of the darkness … Only what it hides.

Jennifer Dorey thinks she is safe.

Following a traumatic incident in London, Jennifer has returned to her childhood home in Guernsey, taking a job as a reporter at the local newspaper.

After the discovery of a drowned woman on a beach, she uncovers a pattern of similar deaths that have taken place over the past fifty years.

Together with DCI Michael Gilbert, an officer on the verge of retirement, they follow a dark trail of island myths and folklore to ‘Fritz’, the illegitimate son of a Nazi soldier.  His work, painstakingly executed, has so far gone undetected.

But with his identity about to be uncovered, the killer now has Jennifer in his sights.

And home is the last place she should be. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Jennifer Dorey was working as a freelance journalist in London when a story she was writing on the trafficking of East European women went wrong and her life was threatened.  Shaken, she decided to return to her childhood home of Guernsey, taking a job as a reporter on the local paper and moving back in with her mother (her father having died in a fishing accident a couple of years earlier).  Guernsey’s a sleepy place where the most interesting thing to happen is a campaign against increasing migrant labour.

But then the body of a teenage girl is found on a beach and although everyone seems keen to see it as a suicide or death by misadventure, a teenage boy tells Jennifer that he found a scarecrow made up to look like the victim a few hours before and burnt it.  Certain that there’s a story there, she digs deeper and discovers a pattern of young girls being found drowned over the past fifty years, which she uses to convince DCI Michael Gilbert (a divorced man on the verge of retirement who has never got over the death of his own daughter) to investigate further.  But there are forces on the island who don’t want the pair to look into the past and someone who will do whatever it takes to stop them …

Lara Dearman’s debut thriller (the first in a series) is a so-so affair that tries too hard to set up the main character’s back story to provide an overall series arc at the expense of the plot, which degenerates into an unsatisfying denouement that tells you very little about the antagonist’s motive and which also made me uncomfortable with its depiction of children born to women who slept with Nazi occupiers during World War II.

Dearman tries too hard to set up Jenny’s background and, to be honest, I’d have rather had less information here on what happened to her in London given that it doesn’t really play into the plot and although I liked her memories of her relationship with her fisherman father, a late twist cheapened them and again, seemed to be done to set up a potential limb for future books.

Jenny does have an interesting dynamic with Gilbert but again there was a lot of background information here that didn’t add a lot to the plot (although I did find it interesting to read about a detective who has discovered Christianity as a means of battling his demons) and I wanted to know a bit more about his professional relationship with his colleagues – especially due to one revelation that’s made more as a passing comment but which should have had serious ramifications.

Although there are flashback scenes from the antagonist’s viewpoint, I didn’t feel that they added a great deal with Dearman missing an opportunity to investigate how so-called “Jerrybag” babies suffered at the end of World War II, their mothers censured for having sex with Nazi soldiers.  In fact, I was quite uncomfortable about how Dearman clumsily tries to tie the antagonist’s motivation with their Nazi heritage, especially as Dearman cops out on explaining exactly what they were seeking to do.

I did like the idea of a series based on Guernsey (an island with a lot of potential given its history and its financial importance as a tax haven) and the father/daughter dynamic of the investigative duo has potential but given the flaws in this novel, I’m not sure that I’d be tempted to read on.

THE DEVIL’S CLAW will be released in the United Kingdom on 14th December 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

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