‘And last, but certainly not least, the readers who’ve kept with me over all these years … thank you.’
Back in 2004, Penguin’s Michael Joseph published Sherez’s very well-received crime debut The Devil’s Playground. But a writing career can be a bumpy road and Sherez’s editor left for Australia. We didn’t see him again until a further standalone novel in 2009, this time with Faber & Faber, The Black Monastery. For those who have kept with him ‘over all these years’, it’s worth the wait. Kicking off the start of a new series, A Dark Redemption has to be his breakthrough novel. If you seek something a little different to the familiar in your crime reading you will find it here. It’s an intelligent and superb read.
With a narrative weaving the past with the current, A Dark Redemption opens in Africa where three fresh graduates are travelling before embarking on their respective careers. They are witness to what is a very harrowing scene and immobile in their response. Moving quickly to the current day, we meet Jack again, now Detective Inspector Carrigan in London, and the discovery of the body of Ugandan student, Grace Okello who was tortured before being killed. Carrigan is not well-respected or liked by his boss and has Detective Sergeant Geneva Miller thrust upon him for the case. She has been instructed to keep an eye on him and to report back. Thus, theirs is not an easily established relationship. Where Carrigan is convinced they are dealing with a rape murder case, Miller sees a broader picture of possible motives. The investigation takes them into London’s world of illegal immigrants and the workings of the Lord’s Resistance Army and how its history impacts on London’s communities today.
Alongside the development of the investigation, and one of the beauties of this novel, is the characterisation of the main characters themselves. We first meet them in quite vivid form, but they too are mysteries with their substance slowly revealed throughout the story. In fact, Sherez has produced something of a masterclass in the peeling of this type of onion. What motivates both Carrigan and Miller, and what makes them what they are today, teases the intrigued reader and is revealed with perfect timing, making a second strand of force driving the turning of the pages. The case also leads to Londoner Carrigan seeing his city through new eyes, conveyed as freshly as you feel he sees it. A crime novel can compel but risk disappointment in its denouement. A Dark Redemption ends after a thoroughly satisfying twist which questions what the eye sees before it.
‘Carrigan exited the park and walked on the road to avoid the clots of tourists emerging from Queensway station. He watched them huddling in tight packs, wearing the same clothes, staring up at the same things. He envied them their innocence, seeing London for the first time, a city with such history yet without personal ghosts. When you’d lived here all your life you stopped seeing the city and saw only the footsteps you’d carved through it, a palimpsest traced in alleyways and shop windows, bus stations and bends of the river.’
This is an exceptionally strong start the series. Carrigan and Miller are obviously enduring characters and A Dark Redemption concludes with a loose end for Miller. London is painted on a new canvas, true to its time. Neither the writing nor the plotting disappoints. Do not miss this one.