Lillia's Diary - Ian McFadyen - 29/08/09

Share this article

When beautiful Lillia Monroe is found dead in a Lancashire lake with the cold expression of fear frozen into her face, it's not long before there is a list of possible suspects...

And it's the people we meet as her story unfolds that make McFadyen's classy new book such a gripping read.

Lillia's Diary is one of those satisfying character-driven crime mysteries far removed from the current crop of thrillers which seem to compete for the most gruesome killings.

This is not a tale of how Lillia died but the story of who she was and why someone would want to murder her ...

Vivacious and flirtatious, Lillia was Estonian by birth but married to the seemingly uninspiring Bradley Monroe, an electronics expert who is a little too unmoved by her killing.

He was on business and out of the country when Lillia was murdered ... or was he?

And then there are Lillia's colleagues at Gemini Technologies where she rose rapidly (some think too rapidly) from a nobody in the sales office to a top level communications manager.

Ralf Marsh, the company's managing director, is a man who likes to be in control and gives no indication that Lillia's passing will cause any major disruption to either him or his business.

Tom Sharwood, the financial controller, admits to the police that he helped to get Lillia a job at the company but cannot hide the fact that he is lying.

And Ruth Andrews, who lost a key job when Lillia was promoted with indecent haste, could have been one of the last people to see her alive.

The task of solving this conundrum lies with former Met Insp Steve Carmichael who is enjoying life in the quiet Lancashire countryside but secretly missing the buzz of a challenging workload.

So Lillia's murder allows him to swing into action and test out the acumen of his protgs, Sgt Paul Cooper and constables Marc Watson and Rachel Dalton.

When the team find Lillia's diary, her complicated life begins to surface and the investigation becomes a race to stop the killer striking again.

McFadyen has a real gift for characterisation and his neat and methodical plotting has more than a shade or two of the great Wilkie Collins.

So if you're looking for a good old-fashioned crime thriller, this could be just the job!

(Book Guild, hardback, 17.99)