In the Peak District village of Scardale, thirteen-year-old girls didn’t just run away. So when Alison Carter vanished in the winter of ’63, everyone knew it was a murder. Catherine Heathcote remembers the case well. A child herself when Alison vanished, decades on she still recalls the sense of fear as parents kept their children close, terrified of strangers.
Now a journalist, she persuades DI George Bennett to speak of the hunt for Alison, the tantalizing leads and harrowing dead ends. But when a fresh lead emerges, Bennett tries to stop the story – plunging Catherine into a world of buried secrets and revelations.
This book will stay with me for a long time. There's no easy way to describe how much I enjoyed reading it and how deep into the story I felt myself immersing. I read it slowly so as to savour each chapter.
1998. Catherine Heathcote is a journalist writing a book about a 35-year-old mystery. She is hoping to persuade retired Chief Inspector George Bennett to open up about the case after a long silence.
It's December 1963 and a mother frantically calls the police, reporting her thirteen-year-old daughter, Alison Carter missing. She has returned from school and then gone out for a walk with her dog. She hasn't come back since.
This happens at a time when other children are going missing without any trace in nearby towns and villages. Fearing another similar case has fallen onto their patch, Detective Inspector George Bennett and Sergeant Tommy Clough go from Buxton police station to investigate this new case of a missing child in the tiny Hamlet of Scardale in Derbyshire.
From the outset, the investigation proves to be very difficult, full of dead ends and dark corners. The people in this close-knit community, cut off from the rest of the world, act as if the police is their enemy instead of on their side and the landscape is so difficult to search that even this seems to be conspiring against them. The people interviewed won't let the police in on anything and they don't tell them what they need to know.
As many, long, fruitless days of intensive searches pass, leads begin to dry and Alison Carter remains missing. George Bennett becomes obsessed with this mystery. Dead or alive he wants to return the girl to her mother. Where is Alison? What happened to her? Has she been kidnapped? Killed? Will he find her?
In this book, all the different characters and sceneries are brought to life so vividly that as from the beginning, I felt part of the story. I could almost see the dale surrounding the hamlet of Scardale with its grey cottages and the village green, the pastures with the grazing sheep. I could almost feel the warmth in the kitchen of the manor house and the freezing cold, dull weather outside. It was as though I was there, a passive character observing, hearing, trying to work it all out and solve the mystery this brilliant author has set out before me as I turned one page after the other.
Thank you Val McDermid for this GREAT mystery novel. Superbly written, I cannot recommend 'A Place of Execution' enough.