Review: Under Violent Skies (Judi Daykin)

DS Sara Hirst has voluntarily left the Met and moved to Norfolk to join the Serious Crimes Unit – both to get away from her parents in London but also to hunt up her father, who vanished but whom her mother will not talk about.

Her very first day starts off with a bang, as the team is called out to a murder. The dead man has been dead for a bit, and as Hirst is looking over the body, one of the team who is not quite thrilled that she’s there gives her a push into the ditch where the dead man lies. Hirst then becomes part of the crime scene, and she has to submit to a DNA swab for exclusionary purposed. Plus, he nice new shoes are ruined.

As the team investigates, Hirst gets up front and personal with the racism and xenophobia that small town life can bring out in spades. She’s the only person of color on the team, and some of the people of Norfolk aren’t particularly pleased to be talking to her, and also direct their complaints about immigration at her, even though she’s Britain-born.

A series of thefts from surrounding farms gets folded into the murder investigation, as it turns out the dead man was an investigator for an insurance company, and was apparently working on something on his own when he was killed.

From time to time, we get the narrative from the POV of a woman brought in to feed the crop pickers from various Slavic countries. She’s worried about herself, of course, and worried about another young woman who is used by the men as their plaything.

Some surprising forensics results sends Hirst into what will be a difficult choice. As the team closes in on nabbing the killer, they also have to deal with the foreign crop picks, who are about to pack up and move on.

It all comes to a fiery head – literally.

To say more would ruin the story, which I highly recommend. The books covers a number of themes in its telling: what constitutes families, racism, xenophobia, migrant labor, and the plight of women trafficked from Eastern European countries.

A solid four out of five stars.

Thanks to Joffe Books and NetGalley for the review copy.