Dark Memories by Liz Mistry #BookReview #Extract #BlogTour

 

Three letters. Three murders. The clock is ticking…

When the body of a homeless woman is found under Bradford’s railway arches, DS Nikki Parekh and her trusty partner DC Sajid Malik are on the case.

With little evidence, it’s impossible to make a breakthrough, and when Nikki receives a newspaper clipping taunting her about her lack of progress in catching the killer, she wonders if she has a personal link to the case.

When another seemingly unrelated body is discovered, Nikki receives another note. Someone is clearly trying to send her clues… but who?

And then a third body is found.

This time on Nikki’s old street, opposite the house she used to live in as a child. And there’s another message… underneath the victim’s body.

With nothing but the notes to connect the murders, Nikki must revisit the traumatic events of her childhood to work out her connection to the investigation.

But some memories are best left forgotten, and it’s going to take all Nikki’s inner strength to catch the killer…

Before they strike again.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Dark Memories today and I'm delighted to be featuring an extract alongside my review. Many thanks to Liz Mistry, HQ Stories and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel, received through Netgalley.

I've come to expect a book which explores the darkest recesses of society with the Nikki Parekh series but the perfectly named Dark Memories is quite possibly the most harrowing yet. Without going into specifics, this time the plot forces Nikki to confront her painful past and it makes for a distressing read at times; it's a compliment to Liz Mistry's powerful writing that there were moments where I had to put the book down for a bit.
It's obvious even from the prologue (see extract below) that this is a novel which is focused on the terrible damage done to children by the adults in their lives. However, despite the nature of the crimes committed in the present and the past, the violence is never gratuitous and Dark Memories is written with tremendous compassion. Nikki quickly becomes aware that somebody is trying to send her a message about two apparently unrelated deaths but it's only when a third person is killed that she realises just how personal a case this is. 
One of the highlights of this series for me is the way in which Liz Mistry explores the different facets of Nikki's personality. She is strong yet vulnerable, self-contained but reliant on the grounding support she receives from her family and friends. As always DC Sajid Malik - Saj - is on hand with the words she needs to hear and a freshly laundered handkerchief. His own personal life which has become fraught with danger since his family discovered the truth about his sexuality doesn't feature as much this time but there are definite indications that this is an ongoing storyline which will be developed further as the series progresses.
Nikki's tempestuous relationship with her sister comes under the spotlight following the awful events in the previous novel, Broken Silence. It's worth mentioning that Dark Memories can be enjoyed as a standalone but I would recommend reading the first two books if possible to understand better the family dynamics at play here. As an increasingly anguished Nikki confronts her own dark memories, we see that while she is frequently able to drawn strength and solace from those around her, she is still tormented by the fear that nature may prove to be more influential than nurture
A new character is introduced this time but I hope this won't be the last we see of him. Isaac is a family friend who has been living alone since the death of his mother but as a man with Down's Syndrome he is a target for bullies. However, although it's heart-wrenching to see him physically attacked or cruelly manipulated, Isaac isn't a helpless victim and I loved that he was able to demonstrate his emotional strength and his importance to the Parekh family. Nikki's interactions with her children, her partner, Marcus, Saj and Isaac often provide some much needed warmth and remind her and us that there are good people - perhaps notably men - in the world too.  In contrast, there are some chilling chapters written from a malevolent perspective which divulge some of the killer's inner thoughts and plans. It's not clear what exactly motivates them, although it's soon apparent that Nikki's troubled childhood holds the key to what is happening - and that somebody is back and is watching her and her family. 
The ongoing evolution of the characters is exemplary and this feels like a cathartic moment for both Nikki and the readers; I'm looking forward to discovering what certain revelations here mean for her in the future. Dark Memories is a tense, intriguing police procedural which once again demonstrates just how good Liz Mistry is at examining the very worst of humanity while sensitively centring the victims of crime. Not an easy read, then but a compelling and rewarding one - I highly recommend it.


Prologue (part one) 
December 1993
Layla sat at the dressing table applying a coat of red lip gloss. The light from the unshaded bulb exposed the room’s shabbiness. She paused, looking at the reflection of her two children in the mirror. They were leaning against the wall, a duvet wrapped around their shoulders at the top of the grubby single mattress that lay on the floor. An episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was playing on the crappy telly that she’d positioned on an upturned box at the end of their bed. Her oldest was speaking. ‘I’ll be Raphael; you can be Donatello.’

‘You’re always Raphael. I want to be Raphael.’

‘But Donatello’s the clever one. Don’t you want to be the clever one?’

Head to one side, Layla’s youngest acquiesced. ‘Okay. But you got to call me Donatello or Don all night and I’ll call you Raph.’

Layla smiled. They were so cute, so beautiful it made her heart bleed. Their skinny arms holding the duvet under their chins, their too-small Ninja pyjamas riding up their little bellies, their eyes flitting across the screen, enraptured by the antics of the Turtles, made her sad. Why should they be content with so little? 

She looked round the room, hating it. The grubby wallpaper peeled from the walls and the threadbare carpet offered no warmth to their feet in the frozen winter. The single-glazed window rattled and let in a force-ten gale when the wind was high. It was a dive and she was ashamed of the life she’d brought her babies into. Next to the children, a single bed was positioned underneath a window, which was shrouded in a scrappy curtain. She’d left the drape open a few inches to allow the amber glow of the streetlamp to illuminate the room when she was gone. Positioned near the mattress was another upturned box with a plate of sandwiches and two yogurts on top.

She placed her lip gloss back on the dresser and started applying cheap make-up to cover her bruises. When she was ready for work, she jumped to her feet and walked over to the mattress, grabbing her little turtles, tickling them mercilessly for a few minutes until he yelled up the stairs. ‘Shut the brats up, or I’ll come up there and do it myself, Layla.’

All three of them froze. She forced herself to smile as she leaned over and kissed them before pulling them close to her chest. I hate him, I hate him so much and I hate that bloody name – Layla. Why did I allow him to call me that? It’s just another way for him to scrape away my identity.

Who was she kidding though? She had no choice in anything. Her cheek rested on her eldest’s shaved scalp, the barely growing bristles scraping her skin. Her lips thinned and she closed her eyes tightly to stop her tears from falling When the kids had come home from school the other day with a letter warning parents to be vigilant about head lice, he’d grabbed them and, ignoring their protests, had shaved all their hair off, saying, ‘This will stop the brats catching nits.’

She ran her hands over their heads and whispered, ‘It’ll grow back soon.’

‘We hate him, Mummy. Why is he so nasty to us? We try to be good.’

A voice came roaring up the stairs again. ‘Get an effing move on – you’ve got money to earn.’

She inhaled and counted to three. One day she’d get away from this. One day the three of them would escape… one day. But, for now, she had to get a wriggle on. Cupping her oldest child’s face in her hands for a moment, before repeating the gesture with her younger child, she smiled. ‘Now, you know what to do. No noise, only the little light and don’t go near the window.’

They smiled up at her, their eyes filled with a love she didn’t deserve. ‘Don’t worry, Mummy. We won’t make a noise. No one will know we’re home alone. We’ll be good.’

She nodded once. ‘Don’t forget the bucket if you need to wee wee.’ From her pocket she took out a key and placed it beside their food. ‘Remember, don’t open the door for anyone except me, unless…’

Two small mouths opened and chanted in synchronicity: ‘…There’s a ’mergency.’

‘That’s right.’ She grinned and handed them a packet of Rolos. She rose. ‘Don’t forget to share.’ Walking to the door, she flicked the main light switch off, leaving the room in a dull glow. ‘Love you!’

As footsteps thundered up the steps, she slipped out of the room, locked the door and sneaked her key into her pocket before moving over to meet the grunting man who had now reached the top of the stairs. ‘Thank God you’re ready. Hope them brats are sorted.’

She nodded, avoiding his gaze. One of these days she’d kill him! No matter how long she had to wait, she’d kill him!

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If you want to read more (of course you do!) then purchasing links can be found here but please consider supporting independent bookstores whenever possible, either by purchasing directly or by ordering through bookshop.org. Dark Memories is published by HQ Digital, it is available now in ebook and will be out in paperback and audiobook on 1st April 2021.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.


About the Author
Born in Scotland, Made in Bradford sums up Liz Mistry’s life. Over thirty years ago she moved from a small village in West Lothian to Yorkshire to get her teaching degree. Once here, Liz fell in love with three things; curries, the rich cultural diversity of the city … and her Indian husband (not necessarily in this order). Now thirty years, three children, two cats (Winky and Scumpy) and a huge extended family later, Liz uses her experiences of living and working in the inner city to flavour her writing. Her gritty crime fiction police procedural novels set in Bradford embrace the city she describes as ‘Warm, Rich and Fearless’ whilst exploring the darkness that lurks beneath.
Struggling with severe clinical depression and anxiety for a large number of years, Liz often includes mental health themes in her writing. She credits the MA in Creative Writing she took at Leeds Trinity University with helping her find a way of using her writing to navigate her ongoing mental health struggles. Being a debut novelist in her fifties was something Liz had only dreamed of and she counts herself lucky, whilst pinching herself regularly to make sure it’s all real. One of the nicest things about being a published author is chatting with and responding to readers’ feedback and Liz regularly does events at local libraries, universities, literature festivals and open mics. She also teaches creative writing too. Now, having nearly completed a PhD in Creative Writing focussing on ‘the absence of the teen voice in adult crime fiction’ and ‘why expansive narratives matter’,
Liz is chock full of ideas to continue writing.
In her spare time, Liz loves pub quizzes (although she admits to being rubbish at them), dancing (she does a mean jig to Proud Mary – her opinion, not ratified by her family), visiting the varied Yorkshire landscape, with Robin Hoods Bay being one of her favourite coastal destinations, listening to music, reading and blogging about all things crime fiction on her blog, The Crime Warp.
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Comments

  1. Wow - I am stunned and a wee bit teary with such a perfect review of Dark Memories I really appreciate this Karen. You really gor what i was trying to do and I'm so glad you like Nikki and Saj. Isaac is a fantastic addition to the cast of characters and I really enjoyed writing the scenes with him in them. xx

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