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Last Witness (DCI Robin Lyons #3) by Lucie Whitehouse @LWhitehouse5 @orion_crime

Last Witness (DCI Robin Lyons #3) by Lucie Whitehouse @LWhitehouse5 @orion_crime

Source: Review copy
Publication: 25 April 2024 from Orion
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1398709249

My thanks to Orion for an advance copy for review

One murder, three families destroyed

And a detective guilty of a crime of her own

When 18-year-old Ben Renshaw is found dead in city woodland, DCI Robin Lyons is plunged into one of Birmingham’s most controversial cases.

Months earlier, Ben and his best friend gave testimony that sent a former classmate, Alistair Heywood, to prison for a vicious sexual assault. Before the trial, the boys and their families endured months of brutal witness intimidation, for which the Heywoods, a privileged and influential local family, faced no legal repercussions. Instead, they vowed revenge.

Is Ben’s murder the fulfilment of that vow, the beginning of a bloody new chapter that will go on claim lives on all sides? Or is the truth – as the Heywoods claim – something entirely different?

To solve the case, Robin has to negotiate the city’s networks of power while walking a dangerous line: her own daughter, Lennie, has a secret that could threaten her liberty – and, if it comes out, Robin’s, too. Before long, Robin comes to question whether she knows what justice is at all.

This is the first Lucie Whitehouse book I have read and on the strength of this I will most certainly be reading the others.

DCI Robin Lyons is a single parent and her teenage daughter Lennie is intelligent and the light of her mother’s life. Robin worries about Lennie constantly and would do anything to save her from harm, like most mothers.

Robin’s boss, ACC Kilmartin, gives Robin the most high profile case in the West Midlands. Teenager Ben Renshaw has been found murdered in an isolated stretch of woodland in Birmingham. Ben is known to the police because he and his two friends, Molly and Theo recently testified in the trial of a former schoolmate, Alistair Heywood. Heywood was convicted of sexually assaulting Molly, a claim he vigorously denied.

Alistair comes from a prominent local family with a lot of influential connections and they had refused to accept the verdict, claiming their son had been ‘stitched up’.

Ben and Theo, though were unshakable, despite being subject to a lot of intimidation. Molly’s experience and the resulting court trial opened their eyes to the experience of women at the centre of such trials and the three of them collectively set up a website, StrengthinNumbers.com which encourages women to share their experiences. They have campaigned on behalf of the site and fundraised for it and the Heywoods are extremely unhappy that their son’s conviction is raised every time they do an interview.

The pressure is coming down on Robin to solve this case quickly, but the timing could not be worse. Her daughter has been caught up in a riot and her brother is about to stand trial for racist offences of which he is, in the main, guilty.

The family are under pressure and Lennie isn’t handling it well, which means that Robin, too, is on edge all the time. Her immediate boss, DCS Samir Jafferi knows all about this and is being both helpful and supportive, but when Robin is tracked down by a journalist, she fears all her secrets will come out.

The supposition is that Ben’s death is just another element of the Heywood’s  revenge but another death puts all that into a new perspective and Robin realises that she will have to look much wider and deeper to solve this case.

Working with her small team comprising DS Malia Thomas, DC Varan Patel, and Tark, they are working night and day to find leads that make contextual sense of these murders.

Lucie Whitehouse has written a complex and tangled police procedural which encompasses a number of themes, not least the nature of justice. Last Witness is written with skill and sensitivity and the scenes with grieving families feel all too harrowing and real.

As with real life crime, there is little or no satisfaction in finding the perpetrator and that is clearly shown in a novel that brims with compassion and sensitivity.

Verdict: A thoughtful, immersive and complex police procedural that hits all the right notes.



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Lucie Whitehouse is the author of seven novels, including the Birmingham-set Robin Lyons crime series of which Last Witness is the third. Her novels of psychological suspense include Before We Met, which was a Richard & Judy Summer Book Club and ITV Crime Thriller Book Club selection, and The Bed I Made, which was a Channel 4/TV Book Club pick. The previous Robin Lyons novel, Risk Of Harm, was a Sunday Times Crime Novel of the Month. Lucie grew up in Warwickshire, studied Classics at Oxford and worked in publishing in London before moving to Brooklyn where she now lives with her husband and daughter. Photo: Joe Vinciguerra