Nicola Monaghan is Nottingham-based and someone I know but do not be put off by any potential bias I may have, she stands very tall without my recommendation. Her debut novel The Killing Jar won the Betty Task award and is an amazing and disturbing read. She has since published novels, novellas, short stories and screen plays. Wish You Were Here is her second in the Dr Love Mystery Series. The first being the well-received Dead Flowers published in 2019.
Wish You Were Here is a crime mystery set in Nottingham, with a strong female lead, Dr Sian Love, a DNA expert, and ex-copper. The story centres on a child who went missing over fifteen years ago and a young woman who thinks she may be the adult girl. The plot adeptly takes you through a labyrinth of clues filled with contemporary and local references, and the interweave of factual and fictional, adds authenticity, pulling you into the centre of the story. Dr Love has complexity and intelligence and as she develops, the mystery unravels. This is a multi-layered story including celebrity scandals, a German Shepherd dog called Elvis*, undercover policing, the hippie and rave scene, Nottingham, London and Bexhill on Sea, with some class politics thrown in. There is tension and shock, and you will be pleased to hear that I swore loudly, on at least a couple of occasions. This is the second book in a series and the story, and characters easily stand alone. I am not a great reader of mysteries /crime fiction, yet this book reminded me why I used to pick up the odd Ruth Rendall. The story is fully engaging and has a pace and tension which is escapism at its best. The end leaves you with both resolution and curiosity for more.
Which takes me to the Nottingham link. My only criticism of this book is the proposition that Dr Love could go undercover in Nottingham when we all know that we all know each other. Someone would definitely have come up her and said ‘ay up, what are you doing here?’ When Nicola Monaghan was writing this book, she was living down the road from me which is why Dr Sian Love gets the same bus into town as I do. The first novel in this series was based in the Loggerheads, a pub that used to stand off Cliff Road in the centre of town. Wish You Were Here references Broadway, The Old Angel, The Sumac centre amongst many other familiarities, all of which add to an additional level of pleasure for Nottingham readers and are well enough described to become real for those from out of town. Just as Nottingham and the Peacock pub hosted Resnick on our TV screens in the 1990’s, I have hope for Dr Sian Love be visioned off the page. If you are Nottingham-based – it is time you got to know this excellent local writer and if you are out of town and like a good mystery with a great female lead, then this also for you.
*A silent tribute to Nicola’s own dog called Elvis
Wish You Were Here is available instore and here: fiveleavesbookshop.co.uk/product/wish-you-were-here/