DIE WITH ME - Elena Forbes
There's a bit of a clue to the context for Gemma's death on the front cover of DIE WITH ME - "You could find your new best friend on the net ... or discover your worst nightmare". Oh dear, another the Internet is all bad story? Well no.
Gemma's death is written off as a suicide when she is first discovered. She seems to have jumped from high up in the church, dying on the floor of the dark church on a dark evening. But postmortem tests show a small amount of alcohol and GHB in her system, and there's the astute observation of Dr Fiona Blake who notices a small lock of Gemma's hair has been cut off. Mind you, if this isn't suicide why is Gemma's stepfather concealing a suicide note, and who was the older man that Gemma was seen kissing on the night she died? Emails on her computer reveal that she does seem to have been drawn into a suicide pact with Tom - who is Tom; where is Tom; and how many other suicide pacts have there been?
DI Mark Tartaglia is convinced there's been others and he sets the team to find out. He's in charge for a short while. DCI Trevor Clarke got a new girlfriend and a mid life crisis in the form of a motorbike at around the same time. He promptly crashed the bike putting himself into a coma, with the distinct possibility of never recovering, or of being a paraplegic. Mind you, Tartaglia's not in charge for long and Carolyn Steele takes over as his boss - although Tartaglia and the team still do most of the work. Just to make Tartaglia's life even more miserable Steele brings in a profiler that he can't stand. This profiler, Kennedy, seems to have a rather close relationship with Steele just to add to Tartaglia's sense of unease. Add to this a sister that's convinced Tartaglia shouldn't be single for too much longer, and his considerably more laid back work colleague - Sam Donovan - and you've got a well drawn cast of characters.
DIE WITH ME does a few things incredibly well (especially as this is a debut book). The characterisations of the main police team are strong - Tartaglia is a complex man, a bit of a loner who is fiercely loyal to DCI Clarke, he's equally willing to work with Sam or to go it alone if circumstances dictate. Sam Donovan is a similar character in some ways - more laid back, but as much a loner as Tartaglia. Throughout the book "Tom" is also somebody the reader gets to know a little. Slowly hints are revealed that give the reader a fair chance of working out which of the possible suspects Tom could actually be.
Fans of the pure investigation style books will probably find the failure to ask the glaringly obvious question of one participant in the investigation frustrating. It's a minor point though in a book that was populated by interesting and engaging characters. DIE WITH ME uses an unusual premise and explores that in a sympathetic manner. We also get to meet a new cast of Police characters that have some real potential to grow further as the series continues.
It seems a sequel book is planned, and I'm really looking forward to it's arrival.
For fifteen year old Gemma it is already too late.
Her body is found in the nave of a church in Ealing, west London. At first all the signs were that it was a suicide. But then the autopsy suggests it is not and Detective Inspector Mark Tartaglia and the Barnes murder squad are called in.
For Tartaglia and his team it is just a matter of time before the tragedy repeats itself.