Although the Northern England of thirty years ago seems a lifetime and a world away, Bea Davenport transports the reader to the setting of “This Little Piggy“ with a finesse which belies the fact that this is only her second crime novel. The action takes place in a small northern mining town during a miner’s strike. During the hot summer of 1984, the tensions of the strikers, the miner’s families and the police were made palpable.
The protagonist, Clare Jackson, is a journalist who has recently been passed over for promotion due to the fact that she did not show up for the interview. But believe me… she had her reasons. Meanwhile she has to put up with the scorn of her superiors and the smarmy guy who got the job in her stead. When Clare learns of a baby’s death at the Sweetmeadows housing estate, she sees a headline story. But this time, following her reporters’ nose presents her with more difficulties that she could have ever dreamed of. The baby who fell (or was dropped) to his death was Jamie, the nine-month-old son of one of the ‘scab’ miners. Could this have been bitter retaliation for his father breaking the strike line? The baby’s grandmother thinks so. But Clare thinks there is more to the story that that. After interviewing various residents of the council estate Clare meets Amy, a young ragamuffin of a girl who is neglected by her single mother. Amy knew baby Jamie and used to play “This little piggy” with him. She is naturally traumatized by his death. When Clare, who is pretty, dresses nicely and has an interesting job takes an interest in her – Amy blooms under the attention. Clare listens to Amy and takes her seriously – which is all nine-year-old children really want and what has been absent from Amy’s life until now…
Clare has been warned by Amy’s mother and even by the police that Amy ‘tells tales’ and cannot quite be trusted, but Clare wants to give her the benefit of the doubt. By befriending the girl Clare precipitates events which bring her joy, sadness and danger. When baby Jamie’s mother also dies, the case takes some suspenseful turns and leads to volatile and heartbreaking events.
Set in a time that I remember well – when cell phones were seldom seen (and if they were they were the size of bricks) – before computer keyboards, back when typewriters were used – this novel brought back a host of memories. The author – a journalist herself – writes with compassion and expert knowledge of her subject. Strongly recommended to anyone who likes a thriller with strong and engaging characters and a faultlessly rendered setting.
To read an online interview with Bea Davenport where she discusses “This Little Piggy”, click here.