Essex-based author Eva Dolan has just released her debut novel – Long Way Home. It’s a tale of murder and immigrant exploitation and set in the area around Spalding and Peterborough. Spalding Guardian editor Jeremy Ransome gives his verdict.
Immigration has been the hot topic in Spalding over the last few years, with the subject evoking strong emotions and much debate on the streets, in the pubs and on forums such as spaldingtoday.co.uk
So when it came to my attention that a debut novelist had written a crime thriller, partly set in Spalding, and dealing with the hidden world of corrupt landlords, villianous gangmasters, crooked gypsies and the exploitation of immigrant workers, I thought I should investigate.
Of course, illegal immigration is a totally different subject to the one of mass legal immigration that leads to so much discussion in South Holland, but what this book deals with is what happens to those who enter our country uninvited. It’s easy to say they shouldn’t be here, but they are and so, with no rights, they are prime targets for unscrupulous villians.
And the subject is very real. During the days I was reading this we had a customs swoop on a Spalding business allegedly exploiting immigrant workers and another case of an Albanian family discovered in Spalding having entered the country illegally.
The book itself is a fast-paced, cracking read, centring around DI Zigic and DS Ferreira of the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit.
Zigic is a third generation Brit with Kosovan roots and Ferreira a Portugeuese who moved to Spalding when she was seven.
When an immigrant worker from Estonia is burnt alive in a suburban garden shed, the two are called in to investigate. Their suspects include a convicted arsonist and far right activist recently released from jail and a prominent slum landlord who owns the shed.
Their investigations lead them into the murky world of forced prostitution, enslaved workers and a foreign community that has learnt to keep its head down and not ask questions.
There is no black and white suggestion all Brits are awful and all immigrants are saints. No, this is a novel that deals with a certain kind of Brit – those capable of exploitation and unimaginable cruelty.
Perhaps some of the characters are slightly stereotypical and some of the dialogue predictable but for a debut novel, tackling a fresh subject matter, its a great read, a real page turner and a very satisfactory ending.
* Spalding is painted in a particularly bad light by Dolan. At one stage Ferreira recalls how Polish and Portugeuese kids were “treated like filth” when growing up in the town.
The South Holland landscape is desribed as “oppressive” and when Zigic wants to stop for food, former resident Ferreira informs him “there is nowhere good”.
But she’s obviously visited the area rather than making wild assumptions, because she talks of wind turbines and homes with fresh eggs for sale.
She also has our detective duo cursing the amount of potholes on the “badly maintained road” as they speed from Peterborough to Spalding.