"A perfect combination of the unwanted and the desperate"
Jan 25, 2009
Two returning characters are featured in Robotham's latest thriller, Sikh homicide detective Alisha Barba and Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz. Out of commission since a serious back injury from her last case with Ruiz and many operations later, Barba is drawn into the pursuit of an ingenious and brutal criminal enterprise brought to the surface when Ali's high school friend requests her help. Although they have been estranged for years, Cate plans to meet Ali at their high school reunion. Unfortunately, the very pregnant Cate has little time to explain her dilemma before she and her husband are hit by an oncoming taxi outside the reunion venue. Left to ponder Cate's desperate last words- "they want to take my baby"- Barba is compelled to uncover the cause of Cate's urgency.
Seeking the advice of the now-retired DI Ruiz, Ali and her former boss begin a multi-layered investigation that spans London and Amsterdam, with ties to Afghanistan, the indifferent exploitation of innocents and a massive conspiracy. Peopled with the simply corrupt to the casually violent, Barba and Ruiz come in contact with the helpless victims caught in a monstrous scheme to defraud, abuse and profit from the hardship of the helpless. Following Cate's paper trail, Ali and Ruiz travel to Amsterdam, led finally to a crowded tenement and two helpless women. Given her last experience with violent criminals, Barba is no stranger to the expedience of brutality, her ruined back a constant reminder; but the Netherlands presents a new set of horrors, a group of sociopaths intent on bringing their evil plot to fruition, profit the great motivator.
Exploring Ali and Cate's broken friendship, Ali's flirtation with an unsuitable man and the evolving relationship between Barba and Ruiz, Robotham tackles his subject with confidence and compassion in a stunning depiction of how the world works for the predators and their prey. Confronting the lost years of a friendship gone wrong and her fear of commitment, Barba is the vehicle for a powerful message, the brutality that routinely visits the disenfranchised: "In Afghanistan we sleep with the thorns and not the flowers." Falling into the horrors bred of greed and exploitation, Ali and the DI are assaulted, beaten and bloody, but refuse to forego their commitment to Cate's legacy, regardless of personal consequences. With a shocking plot and finely nuanced prose, Ruiz remains Barba's rock, Alisha proving herself a valuable asset, a fearless detective and a loyal friend. Luan Gaines.