From the very first line of Anne Coates’ new book, Songs of Innocence, we’re immersed in the action. Two young boys dislodge a body while fishing illegally in the Ponds in Peckham Rye Park. As investigator DS Benton talks to the witnesses, his old foe, journalist and protagonist Hannah Weybridge just happens to arrive at the scene – she’s taking her young daughter, Elizabeth, to play there. The victim turns out to be a teenage girl of Indian extraction and while she initially appears to have committed suicide, nothing is ever what it seems.

Through a mutual friend, Hannah is approached by Sunita Kumar who asks her to investigate further into her niece Amalia’s death. When a second autopsy indicates that Amalia may have been murdered, Hannah discovers that more young women from the Indian community have ‘disappeared’ from local schools and neighbourhoods. When two more bodies are found in local parks, both young women obviously murdered, Hannah finds herself entrenched in the dark world of ‘honour’ killings and forced arranged marriages, while still reeling from the murder of her friend and dealing with single motherhood and a complicated long-distance relationship.

Most of the action in Songs of Innocence takes place in and around south London, where Hannah lives; her hinterland – friends, family, work and playgrounds – cleverly woven into the story so that London becomes almost another character. Coates layers detail upon detail so that Hannah’s world is revealed authentically to the reader, making her actions all the more believable.

That said, the storyline references Dancers in the Wind and Death’s Silent Judgement – the earlier books featuring Hannah – quite heavily and that sometimes makes it difficult to follow the various plot strands properly or to make the necessary connections as quickly as one might do otherwise. Thus, while some books, written in series, lend themselves to be read as standalones, Songs of Innocence isn’t really one of them. Without a doubt though, this is a well-written and well-paced novel, one that makes us look forward to the next installment in Hannah Weybridge’s story.


Songs of Innocence | Anne Coates |  Quercus | 24 May 2018 | paperback | £8.99


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the Songs of Innocence book blog tour. Many thanks to Kelly at the Love Books Group for organising it and to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Image © The Literary Shed 2018. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.


Also of interest:Cold Case – Isabelle Grey’s Wrong Way Home‘; ‘The stark beauty of William Shaw’s Salt Lane‘; ‘The Things You Didn’t See – Ruth Dugdall; ‘Johana Gustawsson’s Keeper –indie publisher, Orenda, does it again‘; ‘Elder’s last stand – John Harvey’s Body and Soul;  ‘We should all be feminists’; ‘Jane Harper’s stylish debut – The Dry’; How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original Penguin Ten’; ‘Book covers we love – Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday’.


This review is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.