Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Daisy in Chains.
There isn’t a single Bolton thriller I haven’t enjoyed, most notably Little Black Lies, but her newest effort, Daisy in Chains, has not been compelling for this devoted fan. Certainly all the elements are there: the dramatic location in Somerset, the pounding sea, and the caverns of the Mendip caves, where the dead bodies of a serial killer’s victims have been discovered--all but the most recent, Zoe Sykes. The characteristics of the victims are unique, all grossly overweight females drawn to charming young doctor Hamish Wolfe. At the heart of the novel is Maggie Rose, an attorney and author of a series of true-crime bestsellers. Maggie has been contacted by Hamish Wolfe, who requests a visit in the prison where he is incarcerated--found guilty of the murders. Wolfe’s letters to Maggie suggest that his situation has become increasingly dangerous, the other prisoners threatening to attack him in his cell.
Even though Hamish urges Maggie to work on his behalf, to pursue leads that might offer grounds for an appeal, she resists, researching the details of the case by herself before making a decision. Somewhere in the mix is a pornographic video
(titled “Daisy in Chains”) Hamish made with a heavyset girl in college, a girl not seen since the making of that film. The circle closes with a spate of new murders--devotees of Wolfe’s cause- and Rose’s anticipated meeting with the accused murderer.
Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Peter Weston, recently promoted from Detective Constable, approaches Maggie, whom he has seen frequently near the Mendip caves where the bodies were found. The enigmatic attorney has captured the officer’s imagination.
He is bedeviled with curiosity and the desire to know her, a solitary soul living in a grand home near the caves, her blue hair matching the azure of her eyes. He is also curious about whether she is interested in representing the elusive Hamish Wolfe. Weston’s problem is twofold: not only is the convicted murderer charismatic, but Weston knows that Maggie Rose is frighteningly successful when representing such clients in court. She has been able to remove many difficult cases from the clutches of justice. It is perhaps inevitable that Rose should meet with Wolfe, while Weston dances on the razor’s edge, discouraging Maggie from meeting with Wolfe, the detective undeniably attracted to her.
Bolton uses a different format in this novel, opening with articles drawn from police files, letters written by Hamish from prison, and Maggie’s real-time documentation of the case. One of the author’s most effective techniques is the evolution of her protagonists, their strengths and weaknesses, their darkest secrets. Unfortunately, I found it an effort to sustain interest in Daisy in Chains because of the glut of information presented before Maggie’s character is defined and the lack of that character’s personality. Unlike most of Bolton’s protagonists, Rose remains an enigma, seen more from Weston’s perspective than her own. The inclusion of contemporary trends in society--in particular “fat shaming”--adds context but serves as well as a distraction, as does the disappeared pornographic film, “Daisy in Chains”.
Bolton pulls the diverse elements together with her usual skill, including a surprise twist, but I am unable to fall in love with her plot or characters as I have in previous tales. (I actually found it near-impossible to reconcile this novel with her other outstanding work.)