Review - The Twisted Knot, J.M. Peace
The second novel in the Constable Sammi Willis series, THE TWISTED KNOT, has Sammi returning to work after a close shave with death in the first novel (which you don't have to have read to get this one, but it wouldn't hurt).
Life back at work isn't easy though, and she's currently mostly behind the desk in the station, a cause of some friction with other members of the team. It takes the death of a man, charged but never convicted of paedophilia in the past, to drag her back out in the field and what turns out to be a fraught case for the local community.
The problem is that "Pete the Ped" has never been convicted, due to lack of evidence, but everyone in this small country town knows exactly what sort of a person he is. Living alone on the family farm - his brother and mother both having moved into town, Pete is vulnerable, and if the locals are to be believed, dangerous. Unfortunately while there are plenty of rumours swirling and lots of vigilante-styled behaviour going on, nobody is prepared to name the suspected current victim. Things have been increasingly fraught and tense in town as a result.
As already mentioned, you don't have to have read the first book in the series to understand that Sammi has had a very difficult experience. Having said that it would be a very worthwhile experience to see what the buzz was about in the first place, as THE TWISTED KNOT didn't live up to the earlier books standards for this reader. Whilst it comes as no surprise that in any working team there's a misogynistic moron bitching and whinging his way through life, that particular character appears at the start with "token idiot" on his forehead, only to contribute minor walk-ons throughout the rest of the novel. There's nothing in his behaviour or attitude resolved or even addressed again. Then there's the positively gobsmacking attitude of a local community, happy to go into lynch mode over an alleged paedophile but absolutely unwilling to suggest a potential victim, or give the police a chance in hell of investigating. Granted that's sort of explained away by the earlier case which has the shadow of either police incompetence or cover-up about it - but you're going to have to believe that the horrendous outcome there somehow justifies a lot of huffing and puffing and not a lot of cooperation from an entire town in the current day.
You're also going to have to swallow hook line and sinker a lot of misdirection / failures to see the nose in front of your face from current coppers which might smack of dumbness, convenience, poor procedure or one of each. Granted the set up is designed to be quick, the action relentless and the push forward constant, but it wasn't too far into the book and this reader was starting to wonder if she was seeing things - some of the red herrings being more than a tad on the nose. And don't get me started on the weird relationship between Sammi and her current-day-mechanic, would-be-cop partner.
Given the debut novel (A TIME TO RUN) was a highlight and a most unusual concept, THE TWISTED KNOT did arrive with some reasonably high expectations and perhaps that was unfair. In the main it's not a bad crime novel, it gets Sammi back to work, it sets up a small police station and team with some inner tensions and some things to work through, that might be an indication of future directions. Unfortunately this current outing headed off in directions that either went nowhere or had too many neon-lit street signs along the way.
A marked man. A damaged cop. A town full of secrets.
After her abduction and near death at the hands of a sadistic killer, Constable Samantha Willis is back in the uniform. Despite being on desk duty, rumours reach Sammi that Someone in Angel's Crossing has been hurting little girls, and before long a mob is gathering to make sure justice is served.
So when a man is found hanging in his shed, the locals assume the pedophile has finally given in to his guilt. That is, until Sammi delves further into the death and uncovers a dark family secret, an unsolved crime and a town desperate for vengeance.