Staincliffe, Cath - 'Letters To My Daughter's Killer'
LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTER'S KILLER is a little gem of a stand-alone by prolific Manchester crime writer Cath Staincliffe. This book is narrated in the form of a one-way correspondence from Ruth, a bereaved mother, to an initially unnamed person, her daughter's killer, and its starting point is four years after the murder. Ruth unsurprisingly struggling to contain her feelings of hatred towards the murderer, but is trying to move beyond raw hate to grapple her way to some sense of understanding of what happened and why.
Ruth is a middle-aged divorcee whose tranquil life working as a librarian in South Manchester is destroyed when her only child Lizzie is murdered. Ruth was a devoted mother and grandmother, happy to babysit and supportive of Lizzie in her stage career. She immediately takes Lizzie's husband Jack and Lizzie's young daughter Florence into her home, helping with childcare whilst reeling from the shock of the bereavement. The obvious suspect is Broderick Litton, a man who has previously stalked Lizzie. But a further shock is in store for Ruth, as the police investigation progresses, turning her life upside down for the second time.
The device of slowly revealing the course of events through the letters works very well, helping the reader share the initial bewilderment felt by Ruth. During the police investigation and subsequent trial there is still much for Ruth to learn about her daughter's life and death. This is the flip side of the traditional police procedural; the police are bit players, albeit particularly significant ones to the course of events in the novel, whose line of thinking often remains opaque until they choose to divulge it. Instead the reader is focussed on the emotions and struggles of the victim's family, particularly Ruth and her granddaughter, Florence.
Cath Staincliffe writes with remarkable empathy, convincingly and sensitively conveying the difficulties and practicalities faced by Ruth in eking out an existence and caring for her young grandchild, whilst attempting to come to terms with the sudden and brutal loss of her daughter, and the uncertainties of the criminal justice process. This is one of the most compelling books I have read this year, and I am very keen to read more works by this author.
Laura Root, England