On the Bookshelf...

Dirty Little Secret

Jonathan Peace

March 1987 Ossett, West Yorkshire A town of flower shows, Maypole parades and Sunday football games. Behind all the closed doors and drawn curtains live hidden truths and shameful lies. A body is found WDC Louise Miller’s first case as detective in her hometown is hampered by the sexism and misogyny of small-town policing. Her four years on the force in Manchester have prepared her for this. Along with ally WPC Elizabeth Hines, the pair work the case together. What truths lie hidden? As their inquiries deepen, the towns secrets reveal even darker truths that could lead to the identity of the killer. But when a second girl goes missing, Louise realises that some secrets should stay hidden.

Dirty Little Secret is a gem of a discovery. A book set back in eighties Yorkshire featuring a female detective. A rare and fortuitous find. This is one of those books where the cover literally drew me into reading this book. It oozed atmosphere, which happily so did the content. It took me back to the decade that music forgot (sorry seventies rock fan here). Louise Miller is a powerful addition to the northern detectives. Jonathan Peace is an author I'll be reading more from.

Think of northern crime, and you've got quite a choice. It's certainly a crowded market, yet this book rises up to the surface like a cork in the Aire. Louise Miller is transferred back to her hometown of Ossett from Manchester, where she has got used to the blatant sexism of the male police officers. Before she starts work, she finds the dead body of a young girl in a telephone box, whilst out jogging. Not long after, another young girl goes missing. Are the two events related, do we have a serial killer loose in Ossett?

The book captures the eighties well. The sexism of those days is front and central to the story. I can certainly relate to the way the police were back then, having served for a truly short time in the late 70s. The only thing missing is the rampant racism at that time, but there's more from the series to come. Louise is a tough character, though, she's not about to let it get the better of her. Louise is a welcome addition to the genre. The writer has made her human and this comes across in the character. Eighties Ossett is full of secrets lurking just below the surface. It's a gritty town sprinkled liberally by grade A delinquents, who are protected by their girlfriends even when they transgress. That's the beauty of the story. It's rooted in reality. It's no cosy society, it's a cesspit. Its life told not through the rosy glasses of the future.

The book is beautifully written in an easy style. Not pure noir in its strictest sense, yet just enough to make it believable and uncomfortable at times.A brilliant debut for Louise Miller. I'll be returning to her adventures soon. Five stars all the way.

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Review by
AJ Steel
April 14, 2023

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