In her English procedural debut Post Mortem, Kate London showed a deep understanding of not only the London Metropolitan Police but the milieu in which they worked. Following on from the second book in that series, Death Message, which dealt with issues of domestic violence, London is back on the beat, exploring the world of gangs, drugs and gun violence in Gallowstree Lane.
Gallowstree Lane opens with a funeral. A police officer has died but who it is and under what circumstances is not clear. This death casts a shadow over the story to follow which starts a month before on Gallowstree Lane, a known strip for prostitution and drug deals. Fifteen year old Spencer has been stabbed in the leg and bleeds out on the street while an off duty paramedic tries to assist. The boy who was with him at the time makes the call to emergency but then runs off. Detective Inspector Sarah Collins and her team are tasked with finding the killer and before long she is once again crossing paths with Detective Constable Lizzie Griffiths. Lizzie has problems of her own: recovered from a stabbing she received in Death Message, she now has a toddler following an affair with fellow police officer DI Keiran Shaw who has since gone back to his wife and family. Lizzie is stretched, trying to juggle being a single mother with the demands of being a police detective. But she has also arrested Ryan, who may be the boy who ran from the scene of Spencer’s killing.
The case is complicated by the fact that it is in the middle of a two year ongoing undercover operation being run by Shaw to bust a gun trafficking deal. London explores the tension between the ordinary police who want to solve a murder and the undercover detectives who see this investigation as potentially ruining their long planned operation. Here London’s experience working with the Metropolitan Police really shines as she effectively captures the politics and the pressures around both operations which, despite everyone’s best efforts, still manage to collide.
In this third book, London’s main characters of Collins, Griffiths and Shaw continue to develop as the pressures of their life as detectives impinge on their attempts to have normal lives. London understands the real, personal cost of holding the thin blue line and she brings that understanding to her characters. The situation that they are investigating gives a glimpse into the world of gangs in the UK, the way in which teenagers are recruited into that life and the violent consequences that result. Making Gallowstree Lane a solid, often fascinating English procedural.