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Sharon Bolton - The Lacey Flint books

Browsing in a charity book shop, I was attracted to a book cover which proclaimed that S.J. Bolton was now writing as Sharon Bolton. So what, you might think. Anyway, I picked up the book to see what this was all about, and discovered that Sharon was an English author of police precedural crime fiction, and her sleuth was a lowly detective constable Lacey Flint. Most of our heros are either private investigators or police detective inspectors and above. Of course there are exceptions. Hamish Macbeth was a police constable at the start of his series, and Jack Frost was a police sergeant. At the other extreme Bob Skinner ended up as a Chief Constable ! Anyway, I was intrigued, and decided to give Lacey Flint / Sharon Bolton a try.

Usually I do a little research on the authors as this often informs their work. However I have not been able to find out all that much about Sharon Bolton. She was born in May, 1960, and was brought up in a typical Lancashire cotton town. She says she has had lots of varied life experiences but doesn't go into details. Her first book "Sacrifice" was published in 2008, and the first in the Lacey Flint series in 2011. She now (2017) lives near Oxford with her husband, teenage son, and dog. She has been nominated for and won various awards. But that's all I know about Sharon Bolton. And I still don't know why she changed from writing as S.J Bolton.

Now You See Me.    (2011)

I read this book in October, 2017.

I am reading this series because I chanced upon "Now You See Me" in a charity shop, noticed it was the first book in a series, and that the detective was female and of lowly constable rank. "Thats different", I thought, "let's give it a go".

"Now You See Me" is not Sharon Bolton's first book, but is the first where we meet probationer detective constable Lacey Flint - London based. I thought it was a terrific story on all sorts of levels, and have already bought books 2 to 4.

The book opens with some poor woman, whose body has been grievously mutilated, collapsing half dead into DC Flint's arms. Flint is in shock. There is no sign of any attacker. Flint calls for back up, and declares herself a scene of crime. Because of all the blood on her clothes, they think Flint has been injured , but she is OK. We now meet an interesting team. DI Dana Tulloch sweeps up in an expensive Mercedes sports car, and she has what everyone thinks is her boyfriend DI Mark Joesbury in tow. Tulloch is in charge, but Joesbury sits in on Flint's debriefing and turns it into a cruel interrogation. Why does Joesbury attack Flint. No sooner has he done this than he points out that any suspect would be fed and watered, but Flint, one of their own, has not. He insists on taking her to a restaurant for a meal. Soon the pair are in the same team, but still at daggers drawn. Does Joesbury suspect that Flint is the killer / is this some strange mutual courtship ?

To be brief, this is murder one in a series of Jack the Ripper style copycat slayings where women are stripped, molested, tortured and mutilated - and sometimes body parts taken as souvenirs. It's all quite gruesome. Joesbury does suspect Flint, but is Flint herself a future victim - she seem strangely linked to the murders. Joesbury follows Flint to protect her, but to get evidence against Flint too. And yet there is an obvious spark betwen Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury. Will they end up together - and how many books will it take to get there ?

As the murders unfold we also follow several other threads. Thread one is the original Jack the Ripper murders of the 1880s. Thread two is a dreadful story from 11 years ago about some girl called Cathy. We also learn of the gang rape of the two Llewellyn sisters by 16 year old public school boys whose parents have fancy lawyers. 17 year old Victoria Llewellyn was told she was the only person over the age of consent, and although the victim, would be accused of raping the under age boys. And so she was persuaded to drop the charges - a terrible injustice calling out for retribution.

Deliberately we are hardly told anything about Lacey Flint's background. There are hints of early sexual abuse, and drug abuse. She never knew her father, her mother was a drug addict, and Lacey was brought up by her grandparents, now dead. By the end of the book we know just who Lacey Flint is, as all the separate strands are brought together. We the readers hear - most of us had already worked it out, I guess - but Mark Joesbury hasn't worked it out.

It's a terrific story, but I mustn't say any more. What is the future for Mark and Lacey - will they become lovers ? Of course, we must read on.

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Dead Scared.    (2012)

I read this book in December, 2017.

This is book two in Sharon Bolton's series about female police constable Lacey Flint, but Lacey has abilities and adventures way, way above her rank. I though book one was terrific, and I guess I think this one was too, but just after half way I was struck by just how unrealistic this story could get. It's as if Lacey is all on her own, thrown in at the deep end as bait without a proper briefing, and fighting a gang that seem to have state levels of resources and abilities. However I did read on, and yes the tension did build, and then more, and then more. At the end it all made some sort of sense, and there was an ending, but I could so have done with an epilogue. I guess we have to wait for book three to see if Lacey has emerged undamaged.

At one level this series is a love story between Mark Joesbury and Lacey Flint. They are both besotted with each other, haunt each other's dreams and wakings, but act distantly to each other when they meet, never have a date, never tell each other how much they care. It's time they did.

Here we have a cluster of apparent suicides in the University town of Cambridge. The student counsellor Dr Evi Oliver wanted something to be done, was not being taken seriously by local CID, and asked for help from her friend Dana Tulloch who spoke to another friend - the London assistant commissioner - and so SO10 were called in and Mark Joesbury comes on the scene. They want someone young to go in undercover and observe, not investigate . Mark suggests Lacey, but doesn't tell her what she is up against. What part of "observe, not investigate", did you not understand ? Lacey of course is assaulted, drugged, possibly raped in her sleep ( or did the stray dog she rescued save her ?) , and is finally almost driven mad. Dr Evi is suposed to be the only one who knows Lacey is undercover - but nothing is as secure as it should be, and no one, not even the police, can be trusted. In fact, Dr Evi herself seems to be under attack too. I won't say much more about the plot - I guess constable Lacey wins the title for most abused female detective. DI Mark Joesbury doesn't fare too well himself, but he is bigger and more experienced.

The story opened on 22nd January with Lacey on the edge of a high University tower, out of her mind with fear, about to jump and end it all, and add to the list of suicides. Apparently Joe is rushing to save her. We then go back to 11 days earlier and count down to the fated day to see what happened and what brought Lacey her current state and to the high tower. And then, impossibly close to the end of the book, we arrive back at 22nd January. Can Mark Joesbury save Lacey ? What possessed him to put her life in such danger. And how on earth did Lacey manage to keep going even though zonked out with hallucagenic, powerful drugs. Dana had called Lacey impressive - that is an understatement.

Stepping back a little to put on a critic's hat, I thought the book could have done with some light amongst the shade. Just a little gallows humour perhaps to allow us to get our breath back. It was one adrenalin high on top of another. It definitely needed an epilogue. So not quite 5 stars, but only fractionally away. Lets hope Lacey's next outing is less frantic, but I do look forward to it.

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Like This, For Ever.    (2013)

I read this book in February, 2018 whilst on holiday in Sydney.

This is book three in Sharon Bolton's series about PC Lacey Flint. It's a good series, and I thought this book was a stunning story. It absolutely delivers on all sorts of levels. Sharon creates so many culprits and fools the reader time after time. The title refers to death - those killed don't grow old, they stay "like this, forever".

Crime fiction detectives are either normal, happily married people like Wexford , or Wycliffe or seriously damaged people like Harry Hole or now like Lacey Flint. Lacey suffered extreme trauma in book one, and then, not fully recovered, she was sent under cover to Cambridge where she was drugged , brain washed into believing she was worthless, and was only rescued from jumping to her suicide death by Mark Joesbury who also threatened to jump, but he said he would hit the ground first, and Lacey would know he had died before her death. Not a very cheery thought ! Now, in book three, Lacey is on medical leave, and doubts that she will ever return to being a police woman. She has cut herself off, is ignoring Mark Josbury's attempts to speak to her, and is still self abusing, cutting her arm, and drinking the blood. In short, she is seriously mixed up.

We also meet a remarkable 12 year old boy, Barney, who has great talents, but tends to be obsessive. He constantly searches for his mum, but it turns out she committed suicide when he was only four.

The main plot is that someone is abducting young boys, cutting them, and finally killing them. The major incident team are nowhere near solving the killings, and Dana Tulloch is cracking under the strain. Lacey is not there - too ill to work - but Lacey keeeps getting dragged back into the investigation when she is sent mysterious clues (by the murderer ?).

There are plenty of suspects, but which one is the killer. We think we know where the story is going, but then we have to think again, and then again. It's cleverly done - Sharon Bolton is a good writer.

In spite of all the plot twists and turns, I think that what we are reading is, at it's heart, a love story between Lacey and Mark. When will Lacey finally stop fighting Mark ?

Will Lacey ever overcome her demons, and return to her colleagues in the major incident team ? If we want to find out, we will need to keep on reading.

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A Dark and Twisted Tide.    (2014)

I read this book in March, 2018.

This is book four in the continuing drama that is PC Lacey Flint's demon filled life. It's written by Sharon Bolton, is set in London, and behind all the misery that Lacey endures we have an ongoing love story between Lacey and Mark Joesbury. Up to now they have been in denial, but now Lacey admits to herself that she has fallen in love with Mark - the only problem is that for most of the book Mark is away on one of his deep undercover missions, and just at a time when Lacey needs him most. Of course Mark does appear again before the end of the book, but then he disappears again, and I thought Sharon Bolton had forgotten about him with only a few more pages to read, and then ....... We really do need another book to see what happens next in Mark and Lacey's romance.

In one of the Inspector Montalbano books Camilleri writes of his hero that in some strange way Montalbano in spite of his sleepy setting, attracts big cases. When on sick leave, life at the police staion went back to it's old sedentary pace. In a similar strange way Lacey Flint attracts extreme misfortune. As her boss Dana Tulloch says, "I don't know how she does it." In this book Lacey, a tormented soul, damaged by three horrendous consecutive cases, has quit Dana Tulloch's major incident team of detectives, and has transferred back into uniform. She has joined the river police, where she is working with Ray, Joesbury's uncle.

It's now 6 months since joining the river police, and Lacey is living on a small houseboat moored in a small marina in a little cutting off the Thames. There is a helpful map at the start of the book. Strangely Lacey has been doing regular wild swimming in the Thames. She has been shown how to keep herself safe, keep out of the strong currents, swim out against the current, and back with the current, etc. Swimming back one morning she gets tangled up with a shrouded dead body which has been weighed down - in short a most suspicious death. Has the body been put there for Lacey to find ? It wasn't there when she swam out. It's that of a young asian woman in her early twenties, and soon MIT and Dana Tulloch are back on the scene. The story now really takes off - it seems to be some sort of people smuggling, but why get them into the country and then kill them, and why wrap them in bandages like a mummy, and why just very attractive 20 ish year old Asian women ?

There are several sub plots. Dana and her husband Helen want to start a family, and Dana has eggs implanted by her consultant Dr Alexander Christakos. And so we have introduced a fertility theme to the story. The river people tell stories of seeing a "mermaid" swimming in the Thames - what is that about ? Someone else is swimming secretely in the Thames, following Lacey, and leaving "gifts" for her on her boat. Is it who is killing the Asian women, or is it the "mermaid". One morning, out for a paddle on the Thames, Lacey stumbles on Sayes Creek, at the top of which is Sayes Court, a grand house, where an old lady Thessa and her brother Alex live. Thessa is confined to a wheel chair, is a herbalist, very much befriends Lacey, and somehow manages to work out a secret only hinted at up to now. This concerns Lacey's past, who she used to be, and explains why Lacey regularly visits serial murderer "Toc" in high security prison. Lacey feared Mark Joesbury would uncover her past - part of the reason she tried to keep aloof from Joesbury. She is astonished that Thessa has worked it out so quickly - not that Lacey admits anything. How do Thessa and Alex fit into the story? And now there is terrible news about undercover Joesbury - he shot and killed a policeman. That no police officer can forgive.

It's a powerful story and all the strands are cleverly woven together by a good writer. About 30 pages from the end, however, Sharon lost me for a while - she had stretched my credibility just too far. We have not just one, but two freakishly rare individuals on the scene, both taking an unhealthy interest in Lacey. But in the end I sort of forgave Sharon - she has written a powerful, gripping story, and has tied up a lot of loose ends.

I would quite like to read another book in the series.

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