Frear's novel has a great start as the heat grips DC Cat Kinsella and her colleague, DS Luigi Parnell, who have arrived on a grassy dirt track that runs alongside a remote field in the molten heart of Cambridgeshire. Holly Kemp's remains have just been found. Under strict instructions from DCI Kate Steele to "play the agitators today," it is up to Kinsella to muster the full force of the mighty Metropolitan police to solve the crime. Missing for nearly six years, Holly is now just a skeleton left to decompose in a ditch, miles from where she was last seen.
The title of Frear's novel directly reflects the story: no one is really shedding any tears for Holly. Since an apprehension had to be made, the police arrested Christopher Dean Masters - who admitted to the killing, then denied it, then admitted it again. DCI Tessa Dyer, the original detective who headed up "the Roommate case," was always convinced that Masters did the deed. Most of the details of the Roommate case had slipped Kate by, though she recalls how Masters tortured his victims and then strangled them. The bodies were all found in Dulwich Woods, except for Holly Kemp's.
Don't hold your breath for a forensic link, not after all this time. Holly knows that the only real clue was that Masters invited his victims to his house. The only witness was primary school teacher Serina Bailey, whose account was "one hundred percept dynamite." The CCTV footage put Holly in Clapham, and an independent eyewitness saw Holly quite literally on Masters' doorstep. At the time, it was obvious to any right mind that Holly was Masters' fourth victim. There was a solid witness ID, and Bailey put Holly with Masters immediately before she vanished. But Kate must now entertain the possibility that Masters was in fact innocent. Ever the strong-willed detective, Kate will find a way to exonerate him, even in death.
Teaming up with Chief Inspector Steele, Holly considers all options: the different dump site, the different method of killing. There were always anomalies in Holly Kemp's case. Her DNA was never found, and her boyfriend, a convicted burglar, took three days to report her missing. However, nothing really mattered after Serena Bailey's ID. Somewhere along the way, Holly Kemp fell through the cracks.
Like most British police procedurals, Shed No Tears should be fast-paced and even fun, with Frear supplying a lot of detailed dialogue that reflects Kate's dismantling of Serena Bailey's alibi. Frear delivers an authentic and discreetly devastating portrait of the systemic cover-up of Holly's murder investigation. Meanwhile, Kate must do battle with her sister, her sick father and her partner, Aiden. She aches to give Aiden a small window into who she is beyond being his love and his mate.
The excitement lasts about halfway into the book with Serena's alibi uncertain, Holly's nerves fraying, and the shape of the mystery still unclear. It dissipates pretty quickly after that, though. The final revelation is slight and a bit dreary, with Parnell largely wasted as Holly's colleague. As for Holly, she lost her parents in quick succession at a young age, and her foster placements broke down. She exhibited dangerous and reckless behavior, and there was the man called Simon Fellows, "someone you shouldn't really pick fight with." Masters always seemed like a lone wolf, a control freak with just one witness who connected him to Holly.
While the story is good, and Frear uses language to create a vivid atmosphere and setting, the pace is often slow (I struggled to finish it). There's some good stuff here, but it gets it lost in Frear's verbose writing style, the idea that guilt is rarely rational, and that successful cops turned desperate can suddenly find their careers ruined.