Nothing excites me more than seeing an already dysfunctional family fall even further into the abyss. I mean this in a fictional sense of course, because in an ideal world, families fix each other and seek outside help when they can’t do it themselves. But in the world of fiction, happy families don’t tend to feature too much in crime fiction and other dramatic productions; and if they do, they don’t stay happy for too long.
In Zoe Sharp‘s new and engrossing thriller, The Last Time She Died, the Fitzroy family are so dysfunctional they’d give Succession‘s Roy family a run for their considerable fortune. The patriarch, Gideon Fitzroy, a former MP, has been killed in a freak car accident. His family, including his second wife Virginia, brother-in-law Roger, step-children Lily and Tom, deal with it in the only way they know how: not well at all. There is the small matter of a will, as well as the sudden appearance of a woman who may or may not be Fitzroy’s daughter from his first marriage. Blake Claremont breaks into her once family home, sets off the alarm, and waits for the police to come and arrest her, thereby setting off a battle of wills that will open a can of worms that will crawls over everyone involved in her disappearance and apparent death ten years earlier. I say apparent, because someone died that night. But whom?
Detective Superintendent John Byron is attending the funeral. Although he’s on medical leave, his commander at the Met wants him on the scene because of a scandal involving a suspected ring of paedophiles among British MPs that Fitzroy may have had knowledge of. Blake’s sudden reappearance and willingness to ruffle feathers among her family and the locals, including PC Jane Hudson and former PC Ed Underhill, only adds further mystery to an already fractious investigation. While not exactly trusting one another, Byron and Blake have a joint mission: to get to the truth, no matter who gets in the way.
Byron and Blake are likeable characters, and the more we discover what makes them tick and what brought them to the where they are now, the more we want to know. The story itself is engrossing and there are enough red herrings and surprises to keep the keen crime fiction reader entertained and looking for more. I enjoyed The Last Time She Died and I look forward to seeing what’s next in store for this mismatched pair of truthseekers. Well done, Zoe Sharp.