A recommended new series! This strongly characterized police procedural is set in the West Midlands town of Stratford, Warwickshire, England.
The cover is atmospheric and brooding and is an excellent choice to entice mystery fans.
Young women are disappearing from Stratford. Police wonder if a serial killer is at work. They have named the case “Operation Sky”. The latest is a Chinese university student Min Li. She was last seen leaving a pub after having an argument with her boyfriend. Could she be a victim of “Operation Sky”? When afterwards her parents in China receive a ransom demand, the case evolves from a missing persons case to a kidnapping – with the pressure turned up to find Min Li before it’s too late.
A former marine, D.I. Will Jackman is now a police inspector. He is tasked with finding Min Li and catching her kidnapper or kidnappers. Jackman is a likeable and complex character – a man torturing himself with guilt over the accident that changed his life forever. One short year ago his wife was injured in an automobile accident. She was driving that night because he had had too much to drink. Now she is living in an extended care facility suffering from ‘locked-in’ syndrome. Jackman and his beloved daughter try to remain positive but this proves difficult with less and less real hope for her recovery.
The novel is told partly via Jackman’s character and partly via the character of Min Li. Jane Isaac portrayed her so vividly that the reader feels a deep empathy for her and her plight. She awakens to find herself buried in a concrete pit of some kind. Her thoughts and reflections throughout her ordeal give the reader a well-rounded picture of her personality. She is a bright young woman from a strict Chinese upbringing who finds herself far from home enjoying freedoms and opportunities which she had only dreamed of. Now she wonders if she will enjoy a future of any kind… and wonders if she will ever see her parents and boyfriend again. She worries over her unborn child and wonders if he/she will make it even if Min Li escapes from her living hell. Her panic is palpable and her situation is so very dire that one can hardly imagine how anyone could cope. The immense solitude, the filth, the cold, the dark, the rats…
When after five days in the pit Min Li is joined by Lonny, a fellow university student, she doesn’t know whether to rejoice or despair. Another Chinese student, she has met him briefly before. Now they share a predicament which brings them closer. Does Lonny’s presence in the pit mean it is more likely they will be found? Or less likely?
The author depicts Min Li with understanding for her plight as well as her culture. The British network of Chinese immigrants is unfathomable to most of the police with the exception of a young sergeant who has worked within their communities. Jackman enlists his aid in finding Min Li and Lonny.
A well-paced story told with strong and realistic characterization, “Before it’s too late” is a superb introduction to a great new British police procedural series. An ingenious twist at the end will ensure that fans of the genre will welcome this new series and it’s troubled yet charming protagonist. The reader can’t help but like him and I look forward to meeting him again in subsequent novels.
Jane Isaac lives in rural Northamptonshire, England with her husband and daughter where she can often be seen trudging over the fields with her dog, Bollo.