Aspiring actress Elizabeth Smart lands her centre stage role: her mutilated body is found dumped in North London’s red light district. Clasped in her hand is a piece of human hair belonging to an unidentified body of a woman murdered two weeks ago.PC Donal lands himself a place on the murder squad just as his unconventional brother, journalist Finton, unearths the secret double life of Elizabeth.The bodies mount, each clinging to the strands of hair belonging to the previous victim. The police are convinced it’s the act of a serial killer. But how does Donal convince them it’s not?The only people he can trust are the victims he dances with in his dreams.
Dance With The Dead by James Nally was published in paperback by Avon on 28 July 2016, and is the second book in the PC Donal Lynch series.
I read and reviewed the first, Alone With The Dead back in October 2015 and was really impressed. Donal Lynch is a very unusual police character and I was looking forward to seeing how this author had developed him.
Since the events played out in Alone With The Dead Donal has been working in the Cold Crime Unit, hidden away and ploughing through cases of unsolved murders. Donal is not the usual candidate to work the Cold Crimes, he's not washed-up, or ready for retirement. He's keen and he's eager. Sometimes he messes up, sometimes he makes the wrong choices but he's determined.
It isn't long before Donal begins to link together some of these unsolved cases. Its clear that the victims; prostitutes, sex workers, or Toms as they are often referred to, have never had anyone working on their murders who actually give a toss about them. Donal is convinced that there is far more to uncover and when a woman is found murdered he's on the case.
I was delighted to be reacquainted with Donal Lynch in this excellently plotted crime story and so pleased that James Nally has really developed him, along with his multiple complicated relationships, and especially his connection with his journalist brother Fintan. The reader learns more about his ex girlfriend whilst watching him form a new relationship with colleague Zoe. There's also the surprise appearance of Donal and Fintan's father, yet another strained and difficult relationship that Donal has to manage.
Alongside the impeccable characterisation in this story, the author also cleverly recreates the atmosphere of the 1990's police force. The attitudes of the police, and the media towards the street girls is horrifying, but sadly does reflect those times. The author does not hold back, the language is raw and brutal, and Donal is a lone soldier against the prejudice and hate.
A complex, multi layered story, riddled with wit and humour, yet dealing with dark and sometimes uncomfortable issues. Dance With The Dead is a worthy follow up to the first in this series. I look forward to book three.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.
James Nally was a journalist for 15 years, before leaving to become a producer and director of TV and film.
This is his first novel, and is based on his experiences of his years writing about the murder victims of London.
Follow him on Twitter @jimnally