Long Way Home is a rather good debut novel from Eva Dolan which introduces us to the detective duo Zigic and Ferreira who work the Hate Crime Unit in Peterborough.
The police are called out when a man's body is found, having been burnt alive in a shed. There are no witnesses to the crime but a positive ID of the victim informs the detectives that he was an immigrant sleeping rough in someone's garden. Investigating the crime, the thoughtful DI Zigic and his sparky loose cannon sidekick DS Ferreira are met with silence in a Fenland community ruled by slum racketeers, people-traffickers, gangmasters and fear. Tensions rise, the clock is ticking, but no one wants to talk.
Dolan is a very talented writer who excels at description. Much of the book reads like a very contemporary expose not only of the rising racial tensions within the UK but of Peterborough's seedy underbelly in particular. I have to admit to knowing very little of this part of the world and that is actually part of the novel's appeal; it's refreshing to read a crime thriller set somewhere other than Manchester, London or Glasgow etc, and Dolan depicts a very unwelcoming, tense, corrupt and racist community that deals in the exploitation of immigrants who have come to this country believing that England is their dream ticket, when in actuality it becomes their nightmare. This topicality adds an extra dimension to the appeal and enjoyment within the novel.
Unfortunately, there is the usual problems and disappointments many debut novels suffer from in Long Way Home and Dolan does seem to both cram a little too much in as well as offer up a somewhat rather saggy middle and meandering climax, but I can only imagine her going from strength to strength with further books and Tell No Tales, it's sequel, was published in January of this year. There's certainly mileage to be had in the central characters of Zigic and Ferreira, a male DI of Serbian heritage and his female DS who left her native Portugal at the age of 7. It's also refreshing to read the female DS as being the wild one, as opposed to the more traditional character trope of being the cautious by-the-book junior partner, but I do wish Zigic had a touch more oomph to his character because occasionally he's so laidback as to be overshadowed by her. I certainly felt she was the stronger character, despite her often unlikeable traits, because I could easily envisage someone like Madrid born Oona Chaplin in the role when reading her, whereas I drew a complete blank for Zigic.