Staincliffe, Cath - 'Dead to Me'
"Look, you're a liability. You're disorganised, you don't think things through, you don't know when to keep your gob shut, you're tactless, and you're not much of a team player. You can be rude and patronising and arrogant..."
DEAD TO ME is a prequel to the successful (and deservedly so – it's really very good) Scott and Bailey TV show. Cath Staincliffe was an excellent choice of author, adeptly mixing story and character to create a story which complements the show.
Detective Constable Rachel Bailey is ambitious, glossy, desperate to escape her less-than-salubrious upbringing and to make it as a detective. Her posting to the serious crimes syndicate run by Gill Murray is her first chance to shine. Her new colleague Janet Scott is more domesticated, an experienced police officer who has no desire to be promoted away from face-to-face confrontation with criminals. DEAD TO ME records their first meeting and charts their slow progress towards a professional understanding and even friendship.
The background to this journey is the fatal stabbing of a teenage girl. The tone of the crime matches the show: the grubby little murder of a disadvantaged teenager in a deprived suburb of Manchester. Part of the appeal of these characters is their empathy with the victim and their determination, almost desperation, to catch the perpetrator. Bailey's eagerness to resolve the crime causes her to make professional errors which endanger her tenure in the syndicate. Meanwhile, the investigation raises personal demons for Janet Scott, forcing her to confront and re-examine a tragedy her past.
The investigation is moved on by a mix of Rachel's intuition and Janet's interviewing skills, but is grounded in the day-to-day reality of policing: sticking to procedure, preserving your evidence, doing your paperwork. Janet's understanding of these values is what makes her the ideal foil to the more mercurial Rachel.
As in the show, the personal lives of the cops influences their professional behaviour and sometimes lines get blurred. Alongside the main story, Cath Staincliffe gets to plant hints of the story arcs and themes explored in the series: Rachel's perfect boyfriend and less-than-perfect brother, the long-ago murder of Janet's schoolfriend, infidelity and parenthood.
The star is Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray, who rules her team with an iron rod and expects the best out of everyone. Staincliffe has captured her speech patterns perfectly ("Too right. Ever. Sworn in blood.") and we learn more about her background.
DEAD TO ME is obviously given more resonance if you have watched and enjoyed the TV series, but it works as a standalone novel, and more books would be a welcome addition. I've never had so many "can I read that when you've finished?" requests.
Rich Westwood, England
last updated 2/06/2012 18:33