Multiple award winner Michael Robotham takes a break from his most recent Cyrus Haven series (Good Girl, Bad Girl and When She Was Good) to deliver the stand alone crime thriller. When You Are Mine takes a number of well worn crime tropes (the policewoman who has criminal family, a cabal of corrupt police) and gives them the Robotham treatment, making them feel fresh again and giving them some thematic resonance.
Philomena ‘Phil’ McCarthy narrates the bare bones of her story in a very succinct info-dump before being thrown in the deep end. Phil is a policewoman in London who has had to prove herself not only as a woman but as the daughter of a well known gangster. Phil’s father, together with her uncles, worked his way up from petty theft and contraband to corrupt property development. Her carefully compartmentalised life starts to fall apart when she and her partner are called to a domestic disturbance and the man they arrest for assaulting his mistress turns out to be Darren Goodall, a decorated detective. Not only that, but it turns out that Goodall is connected to a group of fellow officers who protect each other no matter what.
Despite her suspension, Phil goes out of her way to support the woman who Goodall assaulted, Tempe Brown but also to find out about his wife, who it turns out has also been the subject of domestic violence. Before long, Tempe has become part of Phil’s life more than her fiancé Henry might like and the stories that she tells do not quite add up. On top of that, a journalist is murdered and Phil realises that she needs to reconnect with her father if only to try and get a better understanding of what is happening around her.
Robotham starts piling the pressure onto Phil from almost the first page. She is being put upon from a range of angles, and as a result misses danger signs and takes risks that she might not otherwise have taken. This includes befriending Goodall’s wife Alison and supporting her to leave her abusive husband and digging into the death of one of his former girlfriends. It also means putting aside her squeamishness at her father’s potentially dodgy business dealings and connections. At the same time, she forgives Tempe’s odd behaviour despite warnings from Henry and her friends. Given these connections and knowledge of how the police force can work to protect its own, Phil comes across sometimes as at best idealistic and at worst a little naïve, particularly when it comes to dealing with Tempe.
When You are Mine shows Robotham still at the top of his game. As in his other recent standalone thriller The Secrets She Keeps, a large part of the central plot revolves around the relationship between two women, although this relationship is a very different one. But Robotham also pushes himself into new thematic territory, using this vehicle to highlight the issue of domestic abuse and the difficulties that the system can pose for abused women (an issue also well dealt with recently in Debra Oswald’s The Family Doctor). When You are Mine provides a good mix of tension and character work and, as always, Robotham’s effortless style makes the pages almost turn themselves.
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