The Special Girls by Isabelle Grey reviewed

The Special Girls Book Cover The Special Girls
DI Grace Fisher
Isabelle Grey
Quercus Books
April 6, 2017

Who are the Special Girls? Are they victims or merely 'troublesome'? In this chilling psychological thriller, a case of historical child sex abuse is linked to the murder of a young and popular doctor at a summer camp deep in the Essex woods. For fans of Lynda La Plante's PRIME SUSPECT, Katerina Diamond's THE SECRET and Susie Steiner's MISSING, PRESUMED. A young psychiatric registrar is found beaten to death in woods close to a summer camp for young patients suffering from eating disorders. It is run by the charismatic, world-renowned Professor Ned Chesham. DI Grace Fisher investigates, but it is not long before she is pulled from the case - to head up a Metropolitan Police review into a cold case involving Chesham himself. Nearly twenty years ago, one of Chesham's patients made allegations that he sexually assaulted her. The investigation at the time found no conclusive proof, but Grace soon discovers another victim, and a witness whose shocking account never reached the police. Does this mean the original investigation was wrapped up too soon? Scotland Yard would certainly prefer Grace to make it all go away. As Grace uncovers the secrets and lies that led to the young doctor's murder, she discovers the full extent of the damage done to the 'special girls' - and the danger they are still in.

The Special Girls by Isabelle Grey features DI Grace Fisher and is the third in the series. I’d not read anything from this author previously however the immediate feel is of a fairly traditional police story well written. The setting is a summer camp for patients with eating disorders in the grounds of an old stately home type place. There are three staff who are accompanying the girls and one of those, a young doctor, is murdered. Before Grace can get fully involved in this investigation she is asked to head up a review of an old case handled by the Met. It concerns someone who was at the scene of the murder investigation – is there a connection?

As the book goes on it is clear that things are not actually that clear! Did the previous investigation miss something of any importance? Who is really interested in these cases and why? What might be the role of the press in this? What is the impact on alleged previous victims in such cases? In a sense this is a simple crime novel. However that really would be to sell this short. I’ve read some remarkably ordinary crime stories and this is not one of them. The writing is very good indeed and this is a book which it is very easy to simply continue reading.

As the investigations progress there is good sustained pace and tension that kept me reading solidly. Refreshingly it doesn’t cast the police, in the main, or anyone else as incompetent or making blunders. I found myself liking Grace and a number of the other characters too. Indeed, good or bad, I don’t recall a character who didn’t work for me. Some of the more minor characters seemed particularly well drawn too. On that subject this is a book that is about historical sexual abuse. For me the issues are handled well however it may affect some people – worth bearing in mind maybe.

My only reservation about this story – and it is minor – is the introduction of “love interest”. This is a very well written crime drama for me. It did not need that dimension nor did that have any real bearing on the story. I for one will be reading more of Grey’s work now I’ve found it and would happily recommend it to anyone who enjoys good crime fiction.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review