The world became smaller and yet less intimate, homogenised on a superficial level only, and it seemed to him that the further people moved from home the more aggressively they defended the perceived uniqueness of their own culture.
Sisters Sofia and Jelena wake early and get ready for work at Boxwood Farm, making their way to the bus stop which doubles as a pick-up point.
In the distance car horns blared above the traffic noise and an engine revved, a deep, throaty rattle as a white Volvo shot erratically around a cyclist. Sofia froze as its headlights washed the pavement, silhouetting Jelena’s figure, her back to the car, phone to her ear. Sofia opened her mouth to scream but no sound came out. Then she heard a bang and something slammed into her and the world turned black as her head hit the ground.
Because the women are migrant workers, the case is referred to the Hate Crimes Department at Peterborough and Dolan’s regular detective team of DI Dushan Zigic and DS Mel Ferreira.
Jelena dies but Sofia survives. When Zigic goes to visit Sofia in hospital, she makes it clear she suspects one particular person: Anthony Gilbert, Jelena’s ex-boyfriend. Gilbert, they discover, has form for stalking and harassment. With no lead on the car – it was sold to someone who called himself ‘John Smith’ and said he had no address – Zigic and Ferreira go to see Gilbert and find him on the floor of his kitchen having taken an overdose.
This isn’t the only case troubling the Hate Crimes Department at the moment though:
Two murders three weeks apart, the victims both men of foreign origin. If they were women, or English, people would already be hinting darkly at a serial killer, but these were closing-time kickings dished out on rough side streets where violence was routine and those on the receiving end rarely reported it.
The victims are Didi, a 17/18-year-old Somalian:
When his body was found his head was completely ruined, kicked and stamped on so many times that every bone in his face was broken…
and Ali Manouf, ‘another face caved in under heavy boots’.
When Zigic tells his boss DCS Riggott they need more coverage to help them with their lack of leads, he points out that the Chief Constable’s playing golf with a group who want to invest in the city, creating 1500 jobs. What does surface though is a ten second CCTV clip in which a man dressed in black and wearing a balaclava with fine gauze across the eyes, emerges from the alley where Ali Manouf was kicked to death, turns to the camera, draws himself up ‘and raised his gloved hand in a stiff-armed Nazi salute’.
In the background to all this is English Patriot Party leader, Richard Shotton. Elected to parliament via a November by-election, his well-oiled publicity machine’s doing overtime to try and ensure he keeps his seat in the next General Election.
In the three years I’ve been running this blog, there’s only one book I regret not reviewing and that’s the first in Dolan’s Zigic/Ferreira series, Long Way Home. I didn’t review it because I bought it on Kindle and read it in a sporadic and disjointed manner – not the way I would’ve approached it had I been intending to review it – on a city break, as a ‘holiday read’ (albeit a very grim one, although it was December and I was in Berlin). I still vividly remember chunks of the plot and can picture sections of it because the writing is so precise and, let’s face it, brutal. Dolan has also created a great team in Zigic and Ferreira. Him the softer of the two who prefers to coax witnesses and suspects into revealing information; her harsher and more likely to storm into something without considering the consequences. She’s also very funny (intentionally on Dolan’s part but unintentionally on Ferreira’s were she real). Here’s a couple of moments from Tell No Tales to give you a flavour:
‘Good man. Press conference at five,’ Riggott said, heading for the door. He stopped to click his fingers at Ferreira. ‘Mel, make sure he’s wearing a suit.’
She watched him leave, eyebrows drawn together in a scowl. ‘What, I’m the fucking wardrobe mistress now?’
‘Have you seen this?’ Ferreira was brandishing the newspaper Gilraye had left behind on her desk. ‘Richard Shotton. They’re going to Nick Griffin’s prettier little sister for quotes now.’
She slapped the paper down and stomped over to the open window, lit her cigarette and took a furious drag which hollowed her cheeks.
‘I would love to be one of his people,’ she said.
‘I think Shotton’s a little bit more careful than that,’ Zigic pointed out.
Tell No Tales is a tightly plotted novel. There are more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction but they never feel as though Dolan’s hand is on them, more that they’re exactly the barriers and connections a team investigating this type of crime might come up against. The characters are well drawn: Zigic and Ferreira in particular feel like real people, and Dolan’s imagery and descriptions, while often brutal, are incredibly effective (and affective on many occasions).
There are two things I really love about Tell No Tales (and Long Way Home): the first is how Dolan uses the crime genre to tell stories about the migrant population, allowing them and the British characters to be a mixture of people – victims, villains and everything on the spectrum between. There’s a brilliant scene where the local Asian population protecting the streets on which they live and led by their community leader, Mr Shahzad, stand off against a group of white fascists. It raises questions about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in the eyes of the law and in terms of morals. If I were still teaching, I’d be using it in school.
The second is the lack of young women grotesquely murdered. Crime statistics show that far more men are murdered than women (78.7% of murder victims are male according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), yet this is rarely reflected in crime fiction. It’s great to see a crime writer addressing this in their work.
Tell No Tales is a fantastic crime novel and the team of Zigic and Ferreira are a delight to follow. It’s been a long time since I was hooked on a crime series but Dolan’s books are an absolute treat. (So much so that I’ll be reviewing the third book in the series, After You Die on Friday.)
Thanks to Harvill Secker for the review copy.