Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines's take on Daisy in Chains.
Plunging us into the world of fat-haming, Bolton ties the brutal murder of four overweight girls to the conviction and incarceration of Hamish Wolfe, a popular doctor who also has a reputation as a lady’s man. Wolfe’s eventual capture was one of the largest investigations ever conducted by the Somerset police. Pete Weston, the lead detective in the case, found the girls’ decomposing bodies in Cheddar Gorge, one the myriad underground caverns that surround the county of Somerset. After his arrest Wolfe was painted by the prosecution as a man so enraged by overweight women, whom he saw as a drain on the public health system, that he took matters into his own hands. His murderous actions were seen as legitimizing the ill treatment and abuse of large-sized women.
But none of this seems relevant to a defense barrister and true-crime author Maggie Rose who has made a living out of overturning the sentences of convicted murderers. She currently lives in a big, beautiful house in Somerset where she painstakingly secludes herself, unwilling to do interviews and release photographs about her career or the criminals whom she has helped set free. Whatever Maggie’s insecurities about the world, she’s content to confine herself to her house and to the comfort of her writing even when the reality of her notorious reputation sometimes becomes too arduous.
Things begin to change however, when Maggie gets a plea from Hamish’s mother, Sandra Wolfe. Convinced that Hamish is innocent and that he was “stitched up,” Sandra wants Maggie’s help to overturn her son’s conviction. He was with her the night the last woman - Zoe Sykes was killed. All four women were killed by the same man, so if Hamish didn’t kill one of the them, he couldn’t have killed the others. Sandra begs with Maggie to take on her son’s case and get her beloved child, on whose innocence she genuinely believes, out of prison.
Maggie at first refuses even after she attends Sandra’s “Wolfe Pack,” a club run by bunch of people who are convinced there was a miscarriage of justice. At the same time Maggie is visited by Pete Weston. Backed up by his team who mostly see Maggie as “a pain the police force’s collective arse,” Pete makes it quite clear to Maggie that he doesn’t want her to take on Hamish. Perhaps Pete’s frightened that Maggie might dig up old details about the case while also holding him to account. Putting Wolfe away was the greatest success of Pete’s career. And while Pete sincerely believes that Wolfe is a monster, Maggie admittedly finds herself piqued and also kind of fascinated by the number of obsessive compulsive women writing to him in prison.
Ever the calculating opportunist, Dave wants Maggie to visit Wolfe in order to talk him into telling her the whereabouts of Zoe’s body. Maggie is used to playing the long-game with the police, well aware that Wolfe’s greatest vulnerability is the ongoing boredom of prison. From Maggie’s own draft notes about the “big bad Wolfe” to Pete who once again searches the woods and meadows of the Somerset countryside, Bolton examines how Wolfe’s suffering will eventually bring both Maggie and Pete that much closer to Zoe. Maggie’s first meeting with Hamish is tense and fortuitous. She begs Wolfe to give her something to work with even as she challenges him with the inconvertible evidence from the trial: the trace evidence left in the car used to transport Myrtle Reid’s body, the Facebook postings from his computer. All the while, Wolfe, maintains his innocence, telling Maggie that someone had framed him by braking into his house and stealing his car.
Bolton fills her story with Hitchcockian sense of menace, framing her novel with Maggie’s case notes, a series of emails, Hamish’s letters to Maggie, as well as newspaper reports from Wolfe’s original conviction. Though Maggie’s mission to expose Hamish’s innocence is at the heart of the investigation, Bolton also emphases the relationships of her secondary characters: Pete’s difficult relationship with his boss, DCI Tim Latimer; Wolfe’s connection with black-haired and billowing Silverwood Sirocco, a member of the Wolfe Pack who has been writing swooning love notes to Wolfe; and also Daisy Barton, Hamish’s overweight ex-girlfriend. At one point, Hamish begs Maggie to look for Daisy, but she refuses until he reveals to her truth about what happened that terrible night back at Oxford college. Hamish meanwhile, proves to be a formidable inmate, fending off a series brutal attacks from the other prisoners while he continues to plan his next move. His new relationship with Maggie is pivotal, her invitation to shred his conviction perhaps the proof he needs that he’s innocent of any crime.
Between Pete’s current high-tech forensics to the flimsy evidence that originally convicted Hamish, to a nasty bunch of men - the so-called Fat Club, Maggie is determined that there be no more lies and no more evasions. Showcasing her formidable skills as a suspense writer, Bolton one again writes a murky tale tunneling us into the dark world of a woman’s troubled psyche, a brilliant twist in perspective adding the final embellishment to a lurid story that forces us to question everything we had ever assumed about Maggie Rose and Hamish Wolfe.