Review: To Catch a Rabbit, by Helen Cadbury
When some local kids discover the body of a young Chinese girl on his Doncaster patch, dead from a drug overdose, PCSO Sean Denton can’t bring himself to forget the girl, even if no one else seems to care. The body of another woman is found soon after and Sean begins to investigate the case alongside an ambitious young SOCO.
But how do the drug overdoses fit with a human trafficking case and a man who has mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind his wife and young daughter?
A compelling and intelligent crime novel, To Catch a Rabbit has some serious themes: drug abuse, prostitution, corruption and human trafficking. Author Helen Cadbury shines a light on these issues, weaving together an intricate plot that examines the role of the lost members of our society, the ones who are dismissed and unseen, unfortunate enough to fall through the cracks of regular life.
In Sean Denton we have a sympathetic lead character, a break away from the typical crime genre protagonist. A twenty-something community support officer, Sean has an aptitude for investigative work and is full of heart; he cares about the victims that other officers write off as worthless. But it’s all too easy for Sean to relate to the victims as he was raised on the run down estate that he polices, agonisingly dyslexic he struggles with the admin side of the job and that is what puts him off applying to be a police officer. As such he is often treated with disdain by some of the ‘real’ coppers, who dub him ‘Plastic Percy’.
Sean’s story runs parallel with that of Karen Friedman, a York woman who works for a charity that helps asylum seekers. She is drawn into the story after her brother goes missing. Despite being adamant that something must be wrong, no one else seems to believe any harm has come to him, so it is left for Karen to investigate.
The author’s complex plotting makes this an interesting read that often throws up unexpected twists in the story. As well as the complicated nature of events, one of the book’s main strengths is the depth of character and the realistic relationships that Cadbury has managed to build. Her characters are often flawed but genuine people, the details of their lives building up a portrait of each person that is critical to making the story work as it does.
Class is another important theme and the author manages to portray the divide between those on either side with skill, capturing the problems that life can bring, whatever your status.
An impressive debut that is written with a literary flair not always found in the crime genre.
To Catch a Rabbit is published by North East based Moth Publishing, a collaborative venture between New Writing North and Business Educational Publishers. The book was one of the four winners of the inaugural Northern Crime Competition in 2011, alongside Stolen by Rebecca Muddiman (reviewed here last week), Behind Closed Doors by Michael Donovan and Rant by Alfie Crow. All four novels were published on Thursday 30th May.
Author Helen Cadbury will be launching her book with a signing at Waterstones in York on Wednesday 5th June at 6.45pm.
Please note: this review is based on a free advance copy of To Catch a Rabbit, which I received from New Writing North. All opinions are my own.