The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor - book review: Broken lives, broken people, and broken trust…

The Dangerous Kind by Deborah OConnor
The Dangerous Kind by Deborah OConnor

Deborah O’Connor – an author whose searing psychological thriller, My Husband’s Son, proved to be one of the most exciting debuts of 2016 – returns with a haunting, harrowing tale that explores domestic abuse, internet predators, and some of the darkest corners of humanity.

The Dangerous Kind focuses on a radio presenter’s increasingly perilous search for the truth about a young mother’s disappearance, and is the type of smart, sophisticated thriller which packs a powerful punch on so many levels that it cannot fail to be a crowd pleaser.

Writing with flawless fluidity and breathtaking insight, O’Connor brings us a bold, brave and timely tale crackling with psychological tension, brimming with emotional intensity, and with more twists and turns than a Hollywood disaster movie.

But it is the hard-hitting, menacing storyline which really knocks readers for six as we are asked to consider how well we really know the people we should trust… and whether we are doing enough to protect the young and most vulnerable members of society.

Fifty-one-year-old BBC radio presenter Jessamine Gooch knows that one in 100 of us is a ‘potentially dangerous person,’ someone the police consider likely to commit a violent crime. They are charmers, liars and manipulators, the ones who go one step too far, and then take another step. These people hide in plain sight… they can be teachers, doctors, holding positions of trust, of power.

Each week, her evening radio show examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent the perpetrators.

The cases are always retrospective but when she is cornered by a young woman asking her to investigate the disappearance of her friend, Cassie Scalari, the mother of an eight-year-old boy, and wife to an abusive husband, she agrees because she knows her radio show could soon fold and she is keeping an eye on future projects.

Meanwhile, her adopted teenage daughter Sarah, who has been particularly moody and detached from her recently, is harbouring a dangerous secret, and in another part of London, gap year student Jitesh Ganguly – plagued by panic attacks and a stutter – is riven with anxiety about a young man who will soon be a student with him at Cambridge University.

And fourteen years ago, in 2002, a teenage girl called Rowena, who lives in a children’s care home in Oxford, has a new, older and worldly boyfriend. She loves him to distraction, and for the first time in her life, she feels safe and protected.

As Jessamine delves deeper and deeper into the missing person case, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own child. Because the people we trust are sometimes the ones we should most fear…

O’Connor’s gripping and terrifying plausible story unfolds through the narratives of Jessamine, Sarah, Rowena and Jitesh as the different threads and timelines of the unpredictable plot and disparate characters start to merge in a heart-thumping, page-turning race against time.

Driven by her unflagging sense of justice, Jessamine embarks on not just a disturbing investigation into the most heartbreaking and heinous of crimes but a journey of self-discovery which will see her question her own role as a mother.

Fractured families, grooming, abuse, and the changing, challenging and complex nature of contemporary online crime are all explored with intelligence, compassion and insight in a pulsating story that is one of 2019’s must-reads for thriller fans.

(Zaffre, hardback, £12.99)