Marie Carter who used to be a drug addict and a prostitute has just been released after serving 12 years in prison for killing her two best friends. She doesn’t remember committing the crime, all she remembers is arguing with her friends and waking up from a drugged stupor to find them dead and with their blood all over her, but drugs take you out of it don’t they. She knows that she must have committed the crime, her fingerprints were on the murder weapon and 12 long years inside beating herself up mentally about the murders changes Marie.
Before she was wild, out of control. Now in her early thirties she is calmer, more reflective and filled with sorrow at the years lost away from her two children Jason and Tiffany. Nobody visited Marie or wrote to her. The lack of contact with the outside world and her family make the real world an even stranger place than it would be if she had contact with others.
The first thing that she does is to visit the home of her family. Her mother Louise answers the door and nastily tells her to go away, she doesn’t want to see her again and blames Marie for all of the families troubles including the suicide of her younger brother Marshall after the murders. Marie’s younger sister Lucy is almost as vindictive and unforgiving as her mother; she has always been jealous of her more attractive older sister and wants nothing to do with her either. Kevin, Marie’s father is different, he loves his daughter and has missed her. He wants to see her but knows that if his wife and other daughter find out they will make his life even more miserable than it is.
Marie is out on licence, she has to live in a hostel and there is a 6.30 curfew initially. In her new life she must be careful not to get involved or associated with any crime, one slip up and she goes back to jail to complete her life term. With no family support, no idea where her children are and little hopes of getting a job and a life Marie’s release is a miserable affair.
She hopes that her children were raised in good homes and have a better chance in life than she had. The social services inform her that 15 year old Jason is happy and well cared for but has refused to see her. Marie then visits an old friend and cajoles her into taking her to see her 17 year old daughter. She is full of sorrow to find that Tiffany is following in her footsteps as a crack dependent prostitute and has a baby girl called Anastasia. Marie’s joy at seeing her daughter after all of those years is dispelled when Tiffany shows hatred towards her and tells her to stay away.
The only good thing about Marie’s bleak homecoming is a surprise offer of a job in the office at a scrap yard. She takes it but soon starts to realise that there are dodgy goings on that could send her straight back to prison just by association.
The shit really hits the fan when Marie discovers that the father of her granddaughter is pimp Patrick Connor who is also the father of Marie’s son Jason. Patrick was instrumental in introducing Marie to drugs and prostitution and it soon becomes clear that he has deliberately done the same with her daughter.
That’s enough of the storyline of this hard to put down novel. As with Broken, another book that I’ve read from this author it is well written and absorbed me from the start. Martina Cole writes it seems knowledgably about London gangland, corruption and drug dealing but makes you feel a barrage of different emotions towards the characters.
In Broken there was an unusually large amount of characters to keep track of. The same happens in Faceless but there was no confusion for me with either book. Some writers wouldn’t be able to get away with that but perhaps it works for Martina Cole because she invents characters with sufficiently distinctive traits and personalities to make them memorable.
I found myself feeling sorry for Marie and others like her who have served long sentences and emerge supposedly rehabilitated to find rejection and nothing waiting for them. That surprised me, I had never thought about what it was like before, just felt slightly uncomfortable around those who have served sentences for murder.
Because there is a tendency to blame the murders on drugs, the novel made me consider my feelings about drug crimes and leniency often asked for diminished responsibility. We know that somebody who is crazed with drugs doesn’t know what they are doing and isn’t responsible for their actions but when we are on moral high ground we consider that they know before they take drugs that they can get out of control. Therefore the responsibility comes with the action of taking drugs and not the state of mind while on them. If a crime is committed while under the influence of drink no leniency is expected but I wonder if that is a strong enough comparison.
I liked this character despite her having been convicted for such a violent crime. I could feel the uncertainty and loneliness of this quiet self-contained killer. I could understand why she is controlled and how her years inside have made her turn within herself. I felt sad for her when her family rejected her and that she has to try and live her life with the knowledge that she is despised and hated by most of those who knew her before the murders. I could feel her pain when her beloved son refused to see her and her sorrow at seeing what is happening to her daughter but being helpless to do anything about it. Worse still would be the mixture of anguish and hatred felt towards Patrick Connor, the man who is corrupting her daughter.
Patrick is one mean lowlife, despised by other gangsters and feared by most. A charmer when he wants to be but really a violent man who prides himself on being a nutter. He hates women and enjoys taking young girls and ruining them. He feeds them with drugs and gradually lowers their self-esteem until they prostitute themselves to line his fat wallet. I disliked this character immensely and hoped right from the beginning that he would be stopped from ruining any more lives. Although he has escaped capture for years through intimidation and bribery I felt that this character was too open in his dealings and wouldn’t be intelligent enough to get away with it for so long in real life. Maybe the openness was there to make the reader dislike him further for his arrogance.
Louise Carter is a bitterly twisted unhappy woman who rules the home through meanness and nastiness and misguidedly cares too much about what the neighbours think rather than her family. She only ever loved her dead son and showed from their birth that she never wanted or cared for her two daughters. It’s easy to see how after growing up in an uncaring environment Marie could have so little self esteem that she would turn to drugs and prostitution. Lucy is the good daughter who stays out of trouble and still lives with her parents at 30. She isn’t happy though and has grown almost as mean and jealous as her mother. I couldn’t feel sorry for Louise or Lucy knowing that happiness comes from caring about and not hurting others around you.
Marie’s father Kevin lets his wife order him around and puts up with her ways for a quiet life. He comes across as weak to start with, he watched his wife treat his daughters badly while they were growing up but didn’t do anything about it. Despite that I felt for and liked this character and hoped that eventually he would find the strength to defy his wife and start to do what he wanted and what was right.
There are lots of twists and turns to this story, it can be emotional but it does contain some quite harrowing, stomach churning descriptions of violence. There were a few surprises along the way and I enjoyed being kept in suspense until the end to discover what happened. I wanted the story to continue and to find out if Marie could make a decent life for herself with so much against it. As the author has previously produced series I’m hoping that there will be at least one sequel to Faceless.
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