Personal tragedies soak British mystery

Jan Jones

This week’s book was a hard read — “Fragile Cord” by Emma Salisbury. This one features British Detective Sergeant Kevin Coupland and his young partner, Detective Constable Alex Moreton.

Coupland and his wife, Lynn, have a teenage daughter, Amy. Not long ago, Coupland let a boozy stop after work go a bit too far. Now his wife isn’t speaking to him. The thought of losing his family has him shaken and distracted.

Alex and her husband, Carl, have a young son, Ben. She is eager to advance her career and has just taken the sergeant’s exam. Carl is self-employed and works from home. The promotion would add stability to her family’s income.

Carl wants them to have another child, but Alex is conflicted. It’s the prologue that grabs your attention. A very pregnant Tracey Kavanaugh takes one look at her young son’s drawing and is certain that she must kill the child. The action then moves to DS Coupland. Ricky Wilson and his family planned to make a quick stop at the pub then head home, but when his wife’s purse was stolen, Ricky made a fuss and was asked to leave.

Minutes later, two men appeared, stabbed Ricky and ran off. Coupland knows the group of unsavory girls who hang out at the pub, stealing purses and splitting the contents with the equally sleazy young men who work there. Coupland is sure that they are the culprits, but “no one saw a thing.”

As he’s thinking about the Wilson case, he gets a call that makes his heart sink. Angus Kavanaugh came home and found his little boys drowned in the bathtub and his wife dead by hanging. There is no note, and all insist that Tracey hadn’t been depressed or disturbed. As a mother herself, Alex can’t help feeling deep anger at Tracey. She wonders if she’s fit to bring another life into the world.

Along the way, we meet Coupland’s friend, Joe. Long ago, his wife and child died while he was deployed in Afghanistan. Joe never recovered from the loss. He’s now a homeless drunk. Knowing them makes Coupland count his blessings.

When Ricky Wilson dies, the case become a murder investigation. Coupland puts his energies into the Wilson case, digging into witness and family statements. After doggedly questioning suspects, he gets the break he needs. But his pleasure is tempered by the news that his beloved Lynn has been diagnosed with breast cancer. True to his nature, Coupland fears the worst.

At the same time, Alex concentrates on the Kavanaugh case. The information they need is buried deep and for good reason. Harold and Margaret Sweetman offered rooms to those down on their luck, but the boarders soon disappeared. Investigators found several bodies in the Sweetman’s backyard.

They also learned that the victims had suffered sexual abuse. Worst yet, the couple’s son and daughter had been sexually abused as well. The girl was taken away, renamed Tracey and hidden from the press. She grew up, went to college and met Angus Kavanaugh. When he learned she was pregnant, they got married and began what appeared to be a very happy life. The downfall came with Kyle’s emerging art talent and a fluke putting Tracey’s picture in the paper. It was obvious that Kyle had inherited his father’s amazing talent for art, and only Tracey knew that Kyle’s father was her own brother. Ultimately, she couldn’t live with the world knowing her deepest, pain-filled secrets. The sad fact remains that even after the cases are solved, everyone involved is left with lasting wounds.

Secrets come in all forms. Your public library has shelves filled with books holding the full range of secrets. Why not stop by soon and check it out?