Truth and Lies is the first in the DI Amy Winter series by Caroline Mitchell. I’d not read any of Mitchell’s previous books, but after reading this one, I will most definitely seek out the others. Mitchell was a former detective in CID and her knowledge of police procedure and protocol is key to adding authenticity to this story.
Truth and Lies (A DI Amy Winter Thriller) is set in London and in Essex (the latter being the county where Mitchell currently resides and coincidentally the county where I grew up). It was interesting to see the Essex place names that were so familiar to me from my childhood, although of course they have a more sinister connotation here, in this story!
Truth and Lies focuses on a merging of crimes. The first one is a historic serial killer case that has echoes of the Fred and Rosemary West killings. A couple labelled ‘The Beasts of Brentwood,’ invited young teenage girls to their house who later disappeared and were found to have been murdered. The historic case resonates up to the present day when a young girl is kidnapped, and it is up to Amy Winter of the Met police to find the missing girl before she too, is murdered.
Some of the missing girls from the historic case were never found. The remaining murderer; Lillian Grimes, contacts Amy Winter from her prison cell and becomes willing to reveal the whereabouts of the bodies. There is the constant awareness of the pressure of time in order to find the missing girl before she is killed and to locate one of the missing girl’s remains before her mother dies of cancer.
Amy Winter is horrified to discover that she is the biological daughter of the Grimes’s and was adopted by a policeman at four years old. Amy’s adopted brother is also a Met officer, so this revelation is very distressing to her, as she starts to doubt her true identity. Questions begin to form in her mind, fears about the who she really is as a person and how much of her is tainted through her blood association with the Beasts of Brentwood.
Issues around trust and layers of secrets are key to the plot. Mitchell’s characterisation is well defined throughout the book. We see this in particular in the figure of ex-copper Dougie, who is a surrogate uncle to Amy and was her father’s best friend. Donovan is a handsome Essex policeman who provides a hint of a possible future romantic storyline for Amy. It would be nice to see this develop further as the series progresses. As Essex is not so far from London, maybe he’ll transfer to the Met?
[SPOILER] There is also an important subplot that revolves around domestic violence involving Amy’s deputy Paddy. By portraying a physically strong policeman who is a victim of domestic violence at home from his wife, it brings attention to the fact that anyone can be a victim of such abuse. Mitchell has experience of working with survivors of domestic violence and uses her knowledge well to highlight these issues in a form that is not often represented in fiction. She brings awareness to a topic that is often hidden from view but deserves to have more exposure so that victims can get the help that they need.
There are twists aplenty in this story and I found it a great introduction to a complex, brave, intelligent heroine who I look forward to reading about as the series progresses. If you’re a crime fiction fan, then I recommend that you seek Truth and Lies out.