I reviewed this book last year and this year I’m going to share an extract to celebrate the book’s birthday.
But first, the blurb…
The Fourth Victim
Whitechapel is being gentrified. The many green spaces of the area, which typify London as a capital city, give the illusion of tranquility and clean air but are also places to find drug dealers, sexual encounters and murder…
Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula doesn’t dislike Inspector Matthew Merry but he has hardly set the world of the Murder Investigation Team East alight. And, it looks as if the inspector is already putting the death of the young female jogger, found in the park with fatal head injuries, down to a mugging gone wrong. The victim deserves more. However, the inspector isn’t ruling anything out – the evidence will, eventually, lead him to an answer.
Chief Inspector Swift, Inspector Matthew Merry and Sergeant Julie Lukula get an unexpected break in their murder case when an unlooked for witness is discovered. But, as Doctor Alima Hassan explains, things are not going to be as straight forward as they hoped and the trio quickly realise their witness could also be either a suspect or another victim: or even all three.
‘I’ve worked with Jenny, Leanne as I know her, as her therapist for a number of years, since she was twenty, following an attack that nearly killed her,’ Doctor Hassan began, smiling her thanks to Julie as the sergeant delivered four large to go cups of coffee to the table. ‘We diagnosed DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder or Multiple Personality Disorder in layman’s terms. It is important you should dismiss pretty well everything you have seen in films about this. Suffice to say it remains a relatively rare diagnosis, more so in Europe than America, and is not without its controversy.’
‘Isn’t it brought on by trauma?’ Lukula stated, determined not to be lectured by the attractive doctor. ‘A bit like PTSD?’
‘Yes, although the trauma usually occurs at a very young age and is normally the result of physical abuse, in Jenny’s case this probably occurred when she was about four years old,’ Alima continued, acknowledging somewhat condescendingly the well meant comment. ‘A few years later Jenny Cowan and her older brother were put in foster care with a couple in Fort William. Jenny had her problems but, on the whole, was less difficult than her brother and her symptoms were not recognised until after the attack on her. I was part of a team studying this particular mental disorder. Things went well for a while, then she decided to quit the study.’
‘How did that come about?’ Swift asked, still puzzling what this had to do with his case.
‘Her participation was purely voluntary,’Alima explained, noticing Matthew’s rapt attention, whilst realising she still had to win over the other two. ‘Some sufferers of DID can live relatively normal lives unfortunately many cannot, Jenny was borderline and her symptoms were also somewhat atypical, which is why I don’t usually refer to her as Jenny.’
‘This is the point where you lost me before,’ Swift admitted, ‘you say Jenny has ceased to exist?’
‘Jenny Cowan, was known for her erratic behaviour, well into her teens, sometimes loving and dutiful at other times rebellious; she could have violent temper tantrums and could be devious and untrustworthy.’
‘Sounds like me as a teenager,’ Lukula pointed out, making the others laugh, even Doctor Hassan.
‘I’d happily look over your case notes,’ Alima conceded. ‘However, Jenny often insisted that she wasn’t Jenny Cowan but someone else entirely, behaviour dismissed by her foster parents and school as “play acting” done for attention. Since the attack on her in her late teens Jenny Cowan, who would be thirty-six, has never acknowledged that name, and the most dominant personality has been Leanne, who claims to be aged thirty-two. Leanne has an entirely different history to Jenny, though on paper some key aspects of it can’t be evidenced. However, to her it is completely real and she is totally sincere when she relates this to anyone. This is also true of John, a Glaswegian in his fifties, also of Jacqueline, thirty and born in Ireland, as well as an extremely scary woman I have not been able to discover the name of and two different children, one six and the other eight.’
‘And these are all made up?’ Lukula asked, not at all certain what Doctor Hassan meant by all this.
‘No, not in the sense of her knowingly making up stories. Early studies showed these to be distinct personalities, totally different people with different ways of thinking and outlooks on life. Leanne is the most stable in that she is able to cope better with everyday life, though not as you might expect.’
‘How is that?’ Matthew asked, breaking his silence, his curiosity finally exceeding the surprise, confusion and embarrassment at Alima’s sudden reappearance in his life.
‘She has little self-confidence, is shy and doesn’t interact much with people,’ Doctor Hassan explained. ‘She has a very limited job and, by keeping all stressors at bay, she tends to maintain a happy medium. However, the status quo she strives for is finely balanced and inevitably one of the other personalities will emerge for a time.’
‘So when stressed a different personality takes over and then Leanne comes back,’ Swift concluded.
‘That is how Leanne would see things,’Alima agreed, then confused them by saying, ‘but so would John, Jacqueline and the others.
‘How can she be a man?’ Lukula asked. ‘Surely she must realise that isn’t physically possible, so by definition it must be a pretence.’
‘When you look in a mirror what or who do you see?’
‘I see an attractive woman, a lesbian of mixed heritage, who is dynamic and good at her job.’ Lukula stated confidently – if tongue in cheek.
‘Really, because I just see me,’ Alima pointed out. ‘I don’t see a gender, not even a person. It’s just me staring back at me.’
‘If we can avoid the philosophical debate,’ Swift stated politely, though with the complete self-assurance that he was in charge and thought the conversation well off track.
‘So when we are interviewing her we may not know exactly who we are speaking to or whether it is the one who can actually give us the answer we seek,’ Merry went on, grasping the situation and the problems it would cause them. ‘Worse still we have no way of predicting when the right person we need to interview will emerge.’
‘Yes, exactly,’ Alima agreed, pleased that Matthew had worked things out so quickly.
‘Shit,’ Swift muttered, exasperated and leaning back in his chair.
‘However, I might be able to help,’ Doctor Hassan offered. ‘Act as a sort of guide through the maze, help unlock her mind for you.’
John was born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs.
He has travelled extensively, from America to Tibet, and he enjoys visiting the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that he is an avid ‘people watcher’ and loves to find out about people, their lives, culture and history. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub; he writes.
Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in his novels are based on real incidents and people he has come across. Although he has allowed himself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.
John is currently working on a series of novels set in modern day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city.
Social Media Links –
Amazon author profile: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07B8SQ2ZH
Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17891273.John_Mead