Hard Wired was published by Moth on 8 August 2016 and is available to buy here
WINNER OF THE NORTHERN CRIME COMPETITON
Newcastle 1996. Charlie works in the local bail hostel where, exhausted and made cynical by the job, she expects the worst of everyone.
When her friend’s son is found dead in the local park she is dragged into the hunt for the murderer. Darren was no angel but as she begins to dig deeper she unwittingly sets in motion a series of threats against the hostel and against her own family. Her attempts to uncover the truth find her probing failures in the justice system in a hunt for a killer who has fallen through the cracks.
Hard Wired is a hidden gem of a read, with a unique setting. I can’t remember the last time, I read any kind of crime thriller set in a bail hostel.
It is 1996. Charlie is working at a probation and bail hostel in Newcastle. She is quite a tough woman. Her life is spent working mostly on the night shift and single parenting her teenage daughter. She has reached the point in her job where she has lost empathy for her clients at the hostel. Horrific crimes. Sad personal histories. Disgusting hygiene issues. She is asked to go and comfort her former friend, Di by a local police officer. Di’s fifteen year old son Darren has gone missing. Days pass. Charlie finds herself caught up in Di’s life, trying to support her through this tough time. Di asks her to find out the truth about what has happened to Darren. Darren is found dead, in suspicious circumstances. Can Charlie with her notebook and her gut instinct find a killer?
I had lots of fun reading Hard Wired and getting to know Charlie. We get rather a realistic portrayal of what it is like to work in this grim environment. I felt sorry for Charlie having to deal with their annoying little quirks, with the potential for violence. I could understand completely how her empathy had switched off. Over the course of the novel, Charlie turns into a northern working class Miss Marple. She goes round the area looking for clues and asking all kinds of nosey questions. She even finds herself a sidekick. It was sad that this all took a toll on her homelife, when she seemed to be neglecting her daughter.
This mystery gets the tone and feeling of the 1990s right. This was set just before Tony Blair became Prime Minister and Princess Diana died. Very much prior to social media and the internet taking over our lives. Practically most people didn’t bother with mobile phones then. Nicely old fashioned. I approve.
This is the story of Charlie and how she solves a murder. I would have liked a little bit less of the family drama with the daughter and more of the bail hostel and crime solving. I enjoyed my trip back to 1996 and the mystery of who killed Darren. Solid crime, north eastern style, with a fabulous lead in Charlie.