The first day back at school for a teacher is usually student-free. That is exactly the case at Mile End High School, a standard INSET (In Service Training) day, with one exception – the murder of the headmistress.
When her body is found presented in almost a ceremonial way, and a Buddhist message is left at the scene of the crime, DI Maya Rahman is faced with a hunt for a serial killer while navigating the minefield of a multi-cultural society where the murderer may belong to any section of it. And when a second – and third – murder hits the school community, Maya finds that the truth may belong to a crime that has gone undetected – or at least unpunished.
Just a quick review as I’m off on my holidays tomorrow morning but I wanted to squeeze this one in. It’s an ambitious police procedural/mystery tale, with the author (writing from experience) doing a good job of presenting life in an East London school and an East London police department. The story follows, for the most part, three characters, two police and one teacher, and, as a teacher myself, I was impressed with both the classroom scenes and the teacher himself – it’s always good to see sympathetic portrayals of my colleagues.
Of the two police characters, Maya is the much stronger – as the lead, she narrates her sections, giving more of an insight into her – whereas her second in command gets much less time and I did wonder what the sections focussing on him really added.
It’s not perfect – one important character makes very few appearances before becoming important late in the day, evoking a “who were they again?” reaction – and the motive for the killer seemed to come mostly out of nowhere. Also – and this isn’t a direct pop at this book in particular – I’m getting a little fed up with the structure, which seems to be very common these days, where one character narrates in the first person while the other sections are in the third person. It’s always niggled me a little – who exactly is telling the story? – and unfortunately it’s becoming more common.
Still, an ambitious debut that does a good job of embracing the multiculturalism of East End London in particular and Britain in general, with a compelling plot to keep the reader hooked. Definitely Worth A Look.