The young woman was Rachel Tenison, a wealthy West End art dealer, who led what appeared to be a normal, fulfilled life. But as DI Mark Tartaglia and DS Sam Donovan scratch away at the surface, a darker, secret side emerges.
OUR LADY OF PAIN is the second novel from English writer Elena Forbes - her first DIE WITH ME received a much deserved nomination for the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey New Blood Dagger award.
This book picks up with the same investigation team headed by DI Mark Tartaglia and DS Sam Donovan, called in when a most bizarrely "displayed" body is found in a snow covered London park. The naked corpse of a young woman is kneeling down, her head bent right over touching the ground, her face almost hidden beneath a tangle of pale blonde hair. Identified finally as a wealthy, seemingly very normal West End Art dealer, there is a much darker side to the victim which her friends and family don't make it easy to unveil.
OUR LADY OF PAIN has a similar feeling to the first book, the investigation takes place in the freezing cold of a London Winter, the subject matter is often dark and there's a dismal and almost lost feel to the lives led by just about all the suspects, witnesses and the victim. All of that lends a subdued, dark, sad feeling to many of the characters who are frequently damaged people. Not so the two main lead characters who lead relatively normal lives (especially compared to many police characters in Crime Fiction in general). They are both single, and there is a spark of romantic interest, slightly one-sided perhaps, but it's not overplayed and it is not used as a source of ongoing angst. There's something very realistic about the way that the relationship between Mark and Sam is portrayed and there's something refreshingly normal about both of them. Sam has a happy home life, sharing a house with her sister, they are close and the only thing that's overtly wrong there is a worrying inability to cook. Mark has a good relationship with his own family, despite his sister's ongoing attempts to pair him off with all her own female friends, he cooks, he lives in a normal home, clean and furnished, and well - normal.
It's partly the balance of all these elements that really make this book work, as they did in the first novel incidentally. It's also helped by sound police procedural elements, alongside a strong plot. The plot is reasonably fairly laid out giving fans of puzzle solving a chance of working out the outcome, although the final resolution is not as obvious as you could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be.
I really liked the first book - DIE WITH ME - and I was wondering how the second book would rate, given the class act it had to follow. OUR LADY OF PAIN held up really well, and kept the series ticking along nicely. I hope there's a third and many more outings with DI Tartaglia and DS Donovan.