Anne Marie Smeaton is back in the hometown she hasn't seen for forty years, trying to live a normal life with her partner and teenage son. But that's impossble for Anne Marie. Because forty years ago, when she was eleven, she killed a little boy.
She is trying to make peace with her past by telling her story to journalist Joe Donovan. But it's not that simple. By dredging up memories and emotions she usually keeps repressed, Anne Marie is unleashing old nightmares from the past. Suffering from horrifying visions, she sometimes does bad things. Things she has no memory of afterwards. So when a teenager on her housing estate is murdered and she wakes up with blood on her hands, Anne Marie naturally fears the worst.
With her fragile life falling apart, Anne Marie turns to those she loves. But where she was expecting support, she finds only betrayal. Desperate, she turns to Donovan for help. But Donovan may have his own reasons for helping her. Reasons which have to do with the disappearance of his own son . . .
Waites's brilliant fourth Joe Donovan thriller (after White Riot) puts him in the same league as such established contemporary noir masters as Ian Rankin, John Harvey, and Denise Mina. When Mae Blacklock was 11, she strangled a boy to death in a fit of rage. The story, which made for lurid tabloid fodder, became a common reference point in Britain for juvenile homicide. Forty years later, Mae, now Anne Marie Smeaton, asks Newcastle PI and former journalist Joe Donovan to work with her on a tell-all memoir. Waites alternates between Anne Marie's interview sessions and an increasingly bizarre series of crimes, in which first one and then two children in nearby communities are murdered. Donovan's investigative team gradually uncovers a pattern of child killings over the years that appears to follow Smeaton's frequent moves. Donovan's continued search for his son, who disappeared six years earlier, at age six, raises the emotional stakes in this searing crime novel.