A police procedural about a serious issue, but told with a light touch. Excellent.

After the Fire by Jo Spain is the latest in her series featuring Inspector Tom Reynolds, but it’s the first book by her that I’ve read – despite the fact that others in my book group have talked enthusiastically about her novels. On the basis of this I will certainly be looking for more by Jo Spain. This was a really enjoyable police mystery.

The Story
It’s set in Dublin in 2017, in the aftermath of a fire that was started deliberately and which destroyed a small terraced house near the financial centre of the city. When the fire had been put out two bodies were discovered – one man in bed, and one young girl whose body had been stuffed into a suitcase in the attic.

It’s soon discovered the house had been used as a brothel and is tied to a human trafficking operation just starting up in the city, and to well-established organised crime. One of the girls had fled the house and is in hospital, traumatised and being treated for burns – talking wildly about not being able to ‘save the baby’. There was no trace of a baby found in the burned building.

The police have to untangle all sorts of criminal connections, which involves not only the murder squad but also the sex crimes and gun crime units. And of course there’s the international dimension, which leads them to liaise with the police in Newcastle.

Why I enjoyed it
If the plot sounds a bit complicated, it’s because it is. There are lots of characters and connections to deal with but the book is so well written you can follow them easily. And that’s partly why this story is so enjoyable. It’s written along a linear timeline, following the investigation, but as a reader you’re swept along with all the different leads and inquiries and it never feels plodding. The plot has a sense of urgency without being frenetic.

The characters, too, are well drawn. The detectives don’t spend time on navel-gazing or introspection but you get enough information from Jo Spain to make you feel you know the police team; and as the story builds you begin to know more about the victims and villains as well. It’s very well done.

My verdict
I’m really pleased to have discovered Jo Spain and definitely will be looking for more of her books. She tells stories with a light and clever touch, with humour sprinkled in appropriate places. And although this tale is about such a serious issue (human trafficking) it’s very readable. I really enjoyed this and give it 4+ Stars.
Review by: Cornish Eskimo

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