Truth and Lies by Caroline Mitchell

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.

Japan Exhibition at WYPW

It’s no secret that I have a passion for Japan and Japanese culture. I am lucky in that nearby to me, there is an excellent art facility called the West Yorkshire Print Workshop (WYPW). They run courses throughout the various aspects of printmaking and also have gallery space where they show different exhibitions throughout the year. This summer they have an exhibition on Japan. So I absolutely had to go and see this and I was so glad that I did. (I apologise for the quality of some of the images).

The artists responded to the theme in various different ways. Some of the artwork produced was going back into the traditional legends, myths and fables as seen in this wonderful print above.

Some of the artwork was pared back, beautifully simple but arresting all the same. The colours evoked a feeling of peace and serenity. Japan has an affinity and respect for the natural world this is tied in with Shintoism and could be seen in the response that some artists chose to represent this natural world with prints of water, trees and animals.

It is hard to choose a favourite print but if I had to it would be the one of the lone businessman with the briefcase walking through a Tokyo street. I loved how in just one simple scene, this evokes exactly the background scene of Japan that is often portrayed in the Japanese fiction that I’ve read. Here we see an essence of busyness and modernity presented by the figure of the businessman with the suitcase which is then juxtaposed within the setting of the street itself with the traditional older shops and older lighting. It is a fusion of the old and the new that incapsulates perfectly what I imagine represents Japan.

Another part of the exhibition displayed a series of tenugui which are thin cotton Japanese hand towels. They also serve a variety of other functions and are used as headbands, decorations or as souvenirs and this is because they are also extremely decorative. Tenugui in particular are a great symbol of the importance of the design aesthetic in Japan, in that what we might take for granted as a plain tea towel to dry dishes with, they see as having a multipurpose function. The tenugui also highlights the importance in Japanese design of something functional that is also aesthetically pleasing.

Overall, this was a very interesting exhibition and it’s only on until September, so if you’re in the area, I would recommend that you visit. Details can be found at WYPW website.