Murphy, Margaret - 'The Dispossessed'
I've been a fan of Margaret Murphy's work since I read her debut a few years ago, GOODNIGHT, MY ANGEL, which was shortlisted for the First Blood Award. I tend to class her work as being more in the direction of psychological thrillers rather than whodunits, but THE DISPOSSESSED is an outright police procedural.
THE DISPOSSESSED introduces Chief Inspector Jeff Rickman and Sergeant Lee Foster of the Liverpool CID. Rickman is to all outward appearances a gentle giant but he has had a hard childhood and sometimes has to work hard to suppress an outburst of anger. His temper caused him trouble a few months ago when he went to the aid of a call girl and gave her pimp, Lex Jordan, a severe beating. Only Rickman and Foster know about the incident but it is about to come back and haunt them when Jordan takes his revenge.
Rickman is living with Grace Chandler, a doctor who is well respected in the refugee community and known as Doctor Grace. On her way to work, Grace takes a short cut through a residential area and gets stuck behind a bin lorry. Whilst waiting she watches the bins being emptied until horrifically the naked body of a very young woman slides out from one of them. The murder case is swiftly assigned to CID and to Rickman's team.
Identification of the dead woman proves difficult but she is typed as being from the Middle East. When several more refugees are killed in a fire it appears that the deaths are racially motivated. Identifying the victims proves as difficult as finding the killers. Tensions mount and as it's approaching Halloween, the city is on full alert for more violence.
Rickman has his own problems when his blood is found on the clothing of the first victim and he is suspended. In addition, after a twenty-year absence, his elder brother returns - but he only has memories from his childhood. But this is nothing to the anguish that Rickman will go through before the murders are solved.
THE DISPOSSESSED is a compelling read and also a sad read. Murphy weaves an all too believable plot around the plight of the people who flee from terrible situations to come to the UK to hopefully get a better life but then find themselves exploited. The story is informative and the fate of asylum seekers is passionately told through Grace's discussions with Rickman. The characters are ones you care about and though Foster with his smart mouth, may seem shallow, there are hints that he has depths yet to be explored.
I'm so pleased that the next Rickman book will be out later in 2005 and is to be followed by a third after that. I give THE DISPOSSESSED top marks for both enjoyment and education.
Karen Meek, England