He Knows I Know He Knows: Cradle Song By Robert Edric
I thought it would be a relief to read something not based on fact for once but this police procedural was realistic enough to feel authentic. The unsavoury crimes committed were all of the sort which would hit the news stands and flood the media if they were real. Don’t be fooled by the title, there is no comforting smell of baby talc, no first smiles and no tender lullabies. Having said that, I found myself wholly engrossed in the narrative and despite its length, nothing would stop me seeing it through to the end.
The opening paragraph describes the actions of three young girls who lured a visiting businessman to a warehouse in Hull, with the promise of sex. Instead, he was beaten before they robbed and ultimately murdered him. His body was found and when he was identified, colleagues, who quickly distanced themselves from him, expressed complete disbelief at what they heard about a man who had been “respected, well liked [and] good at what he did”. The girls were caught and convicted. This opening sets the scene for the rest of the novel, contextualising the sordid nature of the crimes about to be investigated, and offers a glimpse into a seedy underworld most of us would choose to avoid.
He quickly discovers the sordid nature of the crimes: think sex, teenagers and middle-aged men, photographs and films, then add corrupt and lazy local police officers...
Nicola Bishop went missing when she was fourteen. Her body was never discovered. Martin Roper was a photographer who also made and distributed highly dubious films involving young girls and older men. When Roper was convicted of killing teenager, Hayley Forbes, he confessed to several other murders including that of Nicola Bishop, although he would not reveal details of how they died nor of where the bodies were hidden. The evidence used to convict him of Hayley Forbes’ murder was irrefutable and the police were content to secure the quick conviction of a ‘monster’ without, it seemed, pursuing any other lines of enquiry. Five years on, Roper is appealing his conviction and James Bishop, still tortured by events, is as desperate as ever for answers about the death of his daughter. He approaches private investigator, Leo Rivers, for help.
Rivers has journalist friends and contacts within the police. He quickly discovers the sordid nature of the crimes: think sex, teenagers and middle-aged men, photographs and films, then add corrupt and lazy local police officers, now worried that Roper may reveal evidence they would rather be left buried. Fortunately, Rivers quickly finds himself working with two officers from the National Crime Squad who are intent on discovering the truth and bringing felons to justice.
As the investigation continues there are more deaths and a growing sense of guilt: could any of them have been avoided? How do the villains so often seem to be ahead of the game? Different names come into the frame: Sullivan was the original investigating officer who quickly retired after securing the conviction which ensured his reputation was intact. He leads the team to others who had played a far more guilty role and who have blood on their hands - but how to prove it?
There are seemingly endless twists and turns; it appears few people are wholly trustworthy, each having their own agenda and manipulating people...
The novel has the sluggishness of a dogged investigation; hopes of a resolution are raised only to be dashed. The reader shares the frustration at the slow pace of events although the officers do make inexorable progress at every step.
Rivers, Smart and Finch make a solid team and I loved the introduction of Alex and Rachel. These two women, well known to Smart and Finch, are computer geeks (in this case, that is definitely a compliment) who breathe fresh air and a modicum of wit into the grim investigation, as they diligently use hardware and software to find answers. Oh, to have the ability to harness even ten per cent of a computer’s capacity – and to understand how it works! They search for encrypted evidence but never forget the nature of what they might find in a case such as this, reminding the reader that, despite their humour, theirs is not an easy job. Officers in the local station are wary and hover almost wraith-like, listening and alert to any sign of progress in the case; few are supportive of the work in hand and the tension is tangible. Sunny and Yvonne are a welcome distraction but this is definitely not a character-driven novel.
There are seemingly endless twists and turns; it appears few people are wholly trustworthy, each having their own agenda and manipulating people for their own ends (some good, some not), but the ending is wholly satisfactory with the focus in the right place: the murder of innocents, and innocence.
This is the first novel of the Song Cycle Quartet
, featuring the character of Leo Rivers and I look forward to exploring the rest of the series and perhaps getting to know more about the central character.
Cradle Song is published by Drugstore Indian Press