Book review: The Dead Won’t Sleep by Anna Smith

4/5 stars

Audible version, narrated by Sarah Barron.

Trigger warning: paedophilia.

This was a very strong 4 for me. Sometimes I cannot stomach books that deal with paedophilia/child abuse, but although it was tough I could handle it here. Maybe because it felt factual and not exploitative. I think it definitely helps that the author worked a long time as a journalist herself (presumably at least partly in Glasgow) and knows what she’s writing about. The way the newsroom works and the day-to-day job of a journalist seems both truthful and detailed and really adds something to the story.

So, Rosie Gilmour is our intrepid journalist protagonist, who gets a tip-off about a case where a prostitute has washed up dead on a beach. As it turns out, the girl, Tracey, was only 14 years old and had lived in a children’s home. Rosie now finds out that it’s worse still, as the girl was allegedly on the boat of the head of the CID, Gavin Fox, or Foxy, the night she died along with a couple of other top brass in the police. This information is given Rosie by Mags Gillick, another prostitute who was a friend of Tracey’s and is wracked with guilt for introducing Tracey to Foxy and his cohorts. Not the most reliable source, but Mags also has a recorded voicemail from Tracey who called her from the boat, talking about the men and mentioning she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to get off. Rosie is hooked, and as she starts to explore the story further, she tumbles down a rabbit hole of lies, corruption and abuse, as well as a second and possibly even worse scandal that she becomes determined to expose.

There are, naturally, a few road blocks though. First of all, she needs as much actual proof as she can get her hands on in order to get her story past the paper’s lawyers and most of what she has is rumours and hearsay. Secondly, since this involves some of the top people in the local police it is imperative to keep the story quiet until they’re ready to go with it. They (Rosie and her editor and one or two others who are eventually let into the inner circle) do not know who to trust, and as the bad guys start to figure out that someone is on their trail the tension begins to rise.

This book paints a very dark and dreary picture of Glasgow in the late 90s, the veracity of which I cannot speak to, but it has a certain depth and level of detail which in any case makes it seem real, which is all I can really ask.

I liked the fact that this was told from the POV of a journalist and that the police were untrustworthy as it gave the book an extra dimension and added to the excitement since the people you would normally go to for help were exactly the ones you were investigating. And Rosie is a great character. She’s tough, she’s clever and she has a good heart. And with a difficult background story herself she can easily empathise with people from different walks of life, and she has no time for bullshit.

I also really liked that this was a solid and believable story. Sure, it’s dark and shocking, but it does kind of seem like something that could have really happened. And none of the characters are just random crazy people who do things because they’re crazy (pet peeve of mine with psychological thrillers and whodunnit type books).

Although things wrapped up in a realistic and mostly satisfying manner, I did feel as if the very last chapter was a little half-arsed, and I didn’t really like that Rosie’s ability to make a choice was taken away from her (you’ll understand if you read the book but I don’t want to get into spoiler territory).

I thought this was a great listen, and the narrator Sarah Barron also did a fab job. I am delighted to see that there are already quite a few more books about Rosie Gilmour available, and have already bought the second one, for which I have high hopes.




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