Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Published: 5th May 2020 (Raven Books)
Between Two Evils, the 5th instalment of the DI Zigic and DS Ferreira series, has Eva Dolan turning her searching gaze towards yet another significant social question: the multifaceted forms of racism and abuse experienced by immigrants to the UK. When a doctor is found dead in his home, his work in the local all-female detention centre provides an obvious avenue for investigation, especially when the detectives discover his role in whistle-blowing a culture of horrifying misconduct. But that’s not all the officers have on their plate. A violent serial rapist has been freed thanks to police malpractice and Zigic and Ferreira know that it’s only a matter of time before he attacks again. And this time it might be even closer to home…
Now what Dolan does really well is express complex, emotive subjects in terms of personal stories. With each diverse voice, Dolan removes the distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’, offering experiences and perspectives which might or might not be different from the reader’s own. In this instalment, it’s clear that Dolan wants to break down popular media portrayals of ‘immigrants’ as one unidentifiable mass, a blanket concept, a problem. As she has done with various other marginalised groups in the past, Dolan works to present every person as an individual. This is expressly done through the author’s development of ongoing and newly added characters.
As the story progresses, the questions raised by the plot are expanded through individual perspectives, particularly those of Zigic and Ferreira. At one point, Mel recalls being repeatedly surveilled by a local shopkeeper because of the colour of her skin, at another Dushan wonders how his asylum seeker grandparents would fare in today’s society. Would they be detained like the women in the detention centre? Maybe even deported? Both are deeply affected by the issues raised throughout the book, informed by their lived experience. And our connection to them, built over the series, opens the way for better understanding of others’ lives. Dolan’s books might be determinedly issue-led, but the reading experience is only enhanced by this underlying authenticity and the author’s social conscience.
So why the 4 stars? Partly because every now and then the main characters didn’t feel like themselves. It was especially evident in Zigic, who seemed inconsistent throughout and whose family drama felt unnecessarily tacked on. Then there’s the ending. From an author like Eva Dolan, who always writes clever and surprising fiction, this was a let down. I was expecting something more than a scene which has been done so many times before that it borders on cliche. Considering that ANY other resolution than the one that we got would have been more unexpected and a good deal more appealing, it was a strange choice. And for me an unconvincing one.
Nevertheless, this is still a good offering, fast paced and thought provoking.
Read all my reviews