Nothing to Hide by James Oswald – a Constance Fairchild novel of contemporary London
This is a story narrated by the “posh cop” Constance Fairchild. The second in a series, it works perfectly well as a standalone book, describing a traumatic time for the young police officer. This is London life in the raw, with small and smelly flats, the effects of drugs on people, and the everyday trials of living in largely anonymous housing estates. Con has a past reason for her current suspension on full pay as a detective police constable, and it’s a complex one. As she was instrumental in putting one of the country’s richest businessmen in prison, as well as witnessing at least one messy death, she has become a person of interest to press reporters and photographers who always seen to be camped outside her front door.
The clever idea of this book is the contrast with her childhood spent in a manor house and a privileged family background. The fact that she has rejected her family and has become a dedicated police officer despite her relationship with the wealthy and famous is very well handled. A tragic discovery near her flat marks the beginning of a case which will test her to the very limits. This tense and well written story is a gripping read, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
Within minutes of calling for help when she finds a young man in a terrible state, Con discovers that she must reenter the station from where she is suspended until the trial of those allegedly involved in corruption. She suddenly becomes involved with Detective Chief Inspector Bain, working for the National Crime Agency, and realises that she is increasingly drawn into an investigation that is far reaching. Retreating back to Edinburgh where she was a student, she is offered shelter by a family friend with seemingly strange powers. There is much to disturb her even away from London and the constant presence of the press means that she is still seeking a disguise. As family matters draw her back into the thinly disguised conflict with her mother, she realises how difficult it is to separate her private life and work challenges. There are some desperate scenes as the reader, along with Con, realise that both her professional life and her actual life are in peril.
The narration of this novel is well paced, with moments of high drama and more placid soul searching mixed well. The description of place is especially good, with all the dirt of city streets and well known pubs and other buildings. These places are contrasted with the formalised and opulent beauty of the family home. There are some fascinating passages describing the rebuilding of Edinburgh and the cranes on the skyline. Some of the characters are also memorable, Rose, for example, almost brings a mythical element to the book with her kind insight into what Con really needs. This is not a helpless woman in peril novel, as Con reveals in her narration the way she is drawn into the investigation and taking risks. There is violence and some very frightening scenes, but essentially this is the story of a life developing in difficult circumstances. Con Fairchild is a memorable and engaging character, and this is an unusual and well written novel.