Presumed Dead by Shirley Wells is a fast-paced crime novel that draws you in from the very first page, and you definitely won’t be left disappointed.
The novel begins by describing the predicament of our protagonist, Dylan Scott, who is currently separated from his wife and living in a rented apartment with his mother. He hates living like this, especially as he was dismissed from the police force for using undue force on an assailant. However, he lives in hope that his wife will come around and take him back as she usually does.
As he slowed for a sharp bend, Dylan wondered if life could get any worse. He was thirty-eight years old, he had no job and little hope of getting one, his wife had thrown him out, his mother had moved in, and he’d had to hunt through a pile of laundry currently lying in front of his as-yet-unused washing machine for the shirt he was wearing.
In the meantime, he begins work as a private investigator, taking on a few cases here and there until a big case comes along. Holly Champion hires him to investigate the missing-persons case of her mother, Anita Champion. She disappeared without a trace thirteen years ago, with the residents of the Lancashire town, Dawson’s Clough, believing that she must have run off with a man.
Holly is desperate to find out the truth after all these years, and believes Dylan Scott is the man for the job, despite his protestations to the contrary. He accepts the job because he needs the money, but soon finds that there is more to this case than meets the eye. There are secrets waiting to be uncovered, and those who would rather forget that Anita Champion ever existed.
His investigation takes him down a number of various routes, and I was amazed at how one clue led to another throughout the book. Seemingly inconsequential events were pulled together by the author and made into something significant, with you never being sure which elements are relevant to the end result. From vengeful girlfriends, to drunken pub-goers to corrupt crime lords, the seemingly quiet town of Dawson’s Clough has it all.
One of the things I loved about this book was how quintessentially English it is, with a firm grounding in the English countryside as well as London. As a UK reader it was a lot easier to connect with the quirks throughout the book, especially the scenes in typical English pubs and the types of locals that frequent them.
Dylan was a great protagonist, as it was easy to relate to him and his life problems and interesting to see how his mind worked with piecing together the jigsaw puzzle of Anita Champion’s disappearance all those years ago. I loved how his home life was integrated into the plot, as these scenes didn’t feel like they detracted from the investigation, but rather they added to it.
I really enjoyed the variety of characters that Dylan came across throughout the course of his case, as there are some great characters that are given a separate subplot to the main storyline. However, all of these pieces come together to form the end resolution, which was really cleverly worked out by Dylan and I liked how the different elements were all brought together. There were also some loose ends for some characters that were left open at the end of the book for the sequel, which I am definitely interesting in reading as this book was a fantastic crime novel.
A brilliantly written crime book that hooks you from the first page, Presumed Dead really will keep you reading until you’re finished. The mystery takes unpredictable twists and turns and it’s amazing how all the little pieces come together to contribute to the conclusion.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Presumed Dead by Shirley Wells
(A Dylan Scott Mystery #1)
Mystery & Detective
Carina Press (26 July 2010)
Paperback: 364 pages