The Hope That Kills by Ed James

The Blurb On The Back:

The body of a young woman is found on the streets of East London, in the shadow of the City’s gleaming towers. No ID on her, just hard-earned cash. But there is no doubting the ferocity of the attack.

DI Simon Fenchurch takes charge but, as his team tries to identify her and piece together her murder, they’re faced with cruel indifference at every turn – nobody cares about yet another dead prostitute. To Fenchurch, however, she could just as easily be Chloe, his daughter still missing after ten years, whose memory still haunts his days and nights, his burning obsession having killed his marriage.

When a second body is discovered, Fenchurch must peel back the grimy layers shrouding the London sex trade, confronting his own traumatic past while racing to undo a scheme larger, more complex and more evil than anything he could possibly have imagined. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s 16th December 2015. DI Simon Fenchurch and DS Jon Nelson get a call out to Minories near Aldgate in London where the body of a teenage girl who’s been brutally stabbed has been found inside an abandoned building that’s marked for redevelopment. The girl has no ID on her but the cash found near her body makes the police suspect that she was working as a prostitute.

Although Fenchurch takes charge of the investigation, the proximity of the body to the City of London means he has to share his findings with DCI Thompson and DI Steve Clarke and the victim’s links to the local sex trade necessitates the secondment of DS Kershaw and DS Owen from Vice. But despite all these resources, the investigation is going nowhere fast and the lack of progress reminds Fenchurch uncomfortably of the disappearance of his own daughter, Chloe, who went missing 10 years earlier and of whom no trace has ever been found. Chloe’s disappearance contributed to the breakdown of Fenchurch’s marriage to Abi and continues to obsess Simon – even his retired police officer father continues to keep an eye on the file in his role with the cold case unit.

When a second body is found and Fenchurch and his team catch the break that they need only to find that this is only the first layer in something much darker and more sinister than anything they could have possibly imagined …

Ed James’s police procedural crime novel (the first in a series) is a so-so affair that offers up another tortured male police officer devoted to his job and to finding out what happened to his daughter but with little emotional intelligence and whose interesting plot is spoilt by an overblown finale that was too overdone to be believable such that while I kept turning the pages, I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.

Simon Fenchurch is an okay character but I couldn’t help but feel that I’d seen his type before – filled with the man pain that comes from having a missing child that he has never recovered from and his emotional constipation being such that he can’t bring himself to talk with someone about it – not even his long-suffering wife (who despite having therapy himself and having divorced Simon still hasn’t managed to move on). I liked the depiction of the relationship with his father (a retired policeman) and with DS Nelson, who I wanted to see more of given his healthier attitude towards the job but the relationship he develops with a teen prostitute was very by-the-numbers and predictable and, for me, didn’t bring the emotional resonance that James seems to intend.

The crime element itself plays out in an interesting way as the team first try to establish who their victim is and work the evidence to find out who did it. I enjoyed the links that emerge with the London sex trade with Fenchurch and Nelson becoming embroiled with a local strip club and minicab company owner that doubles as a pimp. However the plot really devolves in the final quarter with a key revelation that I found somewhat silly and unbelievable and which spoiled the impact of the earlier deaths.

Chloe’s disappearance seems intended to form the backbone of the series but in truth, I’, not sure that I really care enough about it to want to find out more while the soap opera resolution to the plot here makes me reluctant to read on.

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