- When She Was Good, by Michael Robotham. Hachette. $32.99.
Michael Robotham is a celebrated, award-winning Australian crime writer, although he sets his novels in the UK, where he worked for many years as an investigative journalist.
Robotham is best known for his series of nine novels featuring psychologist Joe O'Loughlin, who has a constant battle with Parkinson's disease.
In 2019, Robotham began a new series with Good Girl, Bad Girl, centred around a forensic psychologist with a tragic past, Cyrus Haven, a consultant with Nottinghamshire police.
Cyrus is called to treat a damaged teenager in a secure children's home who, six years earlier, had been found hiding in a house' where a man had been tortured to death. She refuses to reveal her identity, becomes a ward of the state and is given the name Evie Cormac.
In When She Was Good, Robotham retells the story of Evie's past to reveal who she is and why someone wants her dead.
The novel begins with Cyrus called to the scene of the murder of a retired policeman, Detective Superintendent Hamish Whitmore.
In retirement, he has become fixated on some of his old cases, especially that of the paedophile, Eugene Green, who had pleaded guilty to the murder of three children and had been beaten to death in a prison exercise yard.
Whitmore's wife tells the police her husband had "turned his office into an incident room with whiteboards and photographs of murdered children. Gave me the creeps".
However, all the evidence that Whitmore collected has been stolen, as well as his computer. On the whiteboard that remains, Whitmore had written "Angel Face", the name Evie was given when first discovered.
A man with a distinctive scar on his forehead, impersonating a police detective, is responsible for the theft. When he breaks into Evie's children's home and murders her room-mate, Evie recognises his voice and, terrified, goes on the run.
Robotham uses Evie's memories to reveal the existence of a child sex-trafficking ring linked to powerful men, who will stop at nothing to protect their activities and identities.
Robotham claims that for him, creating uniquely appealing characters is the key to writing a successful thriller.
He says, "There's very little that hasn't been written before. The trick is to create compelling characters that readers like and then put them in jeopardy . . .that is the trick to creating tension and suspense."
It is not surprising that When She was Good was shortlisted for the CWA Golden Dagger Award on the day of its release.