Road To Nowhere by Steven Suttie

I spent some of last weekend lounging in the sun in the back garden finishing off the third book in the DCI Miller series, Road To Nowhere by Steven Suttie. Having been a fan of Suttie’s novels since I was absolutely floored by the phenomenal One Man Crusade last year, I was really keen to read this third instalment. I had been a tad disappointed with Neighbours From Hell, not because it was a bad book but because it didn’t quite end as I’d have liked. The ending had left me feeling deflated and sad that there appeared to have been a grave miscarriage of justice (though I did comment in my review at the time that perhaps that was Suttie’s intention). I was genuinely gutted not to have felt as blown away as I did after One Man Crusade, so I was really hoping that this third book would redeem the DCI Miller series.

Road To Nowhere catches up with DCI Miller a little time after the “Neighbours From Hell” case. The mother of convicted killer, Rachel Birdsworth, is campaigning for a retrial and DCI Miller has little time or inclination to entertain this idea as he is thrown into a case which will generate a national response. Well respected family man Sergeant Jason Knight has vanished after a bike ride and when his wife Rebecca calls it in, Miller is asked to head up the case to find the missing policeman. The pressure is on as “one of their own” is unaccounted for.

Typically for a Steven Suttie novel, the action is described in a detached journalistic style, which allows the reader to make their own mind up without the influence of the author. This works so very well as Suttie doesn’t shy away from highly emotive topics. I’m not going to go into detail about the plot as it would undoubtedly spoil it for future readers but Suttie has a brilliant way for leading you down one absolute train of thought and turning it on its head. The best part of it is, you just don’t see it coming!

I think it would prove confusing to read this book as a standalone, but to be quite honest, you’d be seriously missing out if you didn’t read the first two books first anyway, because they are wonderfully executed. The three books as a series would provide anyone with a good few brilliant hours of reading and although not for the faint-hearted, they contain some really strong characters.

DCI Miller and his team don’t interact quite as much in Road To Nowhere, and while I’d have loved to have seen more of the team dynamics, the book doesn’t suffer for this, in fact it works really well. I think there is plenty of mileage in further DCI Miller books to further explore these characters that we came to know and love in the first two books but this book has enough going on and to take up too much page space with this would have been an error on Suttie’s part, because it would have been lost. The plot moves fast in this novel and while the snippets that we get of Miller’s team are precious few, it feels very evenly balanced.

Suttie always provides a political edge to his novels and Road To Nowhere is no different. Lack of funding for public services, lack of resources and hidden agendas are all referred to in this novel. The role of the media and their manipulation of the unsuspecting viewers/readers is exposed but Suttie does not give any opinion in this novel. He gives the reader enough food for thought for them to make up their own mind. His narrative, apart from some character exchanges, is quite unemotional and more a provision of the facts, with an occasional clue as to what happens next, yet as a reader, my emotions were all over the place. Not quite to the extent that they were in One Man Crusade, (I don’t think any book will ever have quite the emotional effect on me that One Man Crusade did), but I felt shocked, sad, angry, amused, revolted and nervous that the scenarios that Suttie depicts in this novel (and his others too) could and most likely do, happen. Given that Suttie’s novels are based in the Manchester area, where I live, it is a bit disconcerting to imagine these events taking place so close to home. I recognise and have at least travelled through Suttie’s locations. Whilst adding an extra facet to like about these novels, it also adds another level of fear and suspense as you can’t help but consider that these potentially realistic fictional events are based just a few miles away.

Of course, there will be familiarities in Road To Nowhere for anyone who lives in the UK. Sky News is a big feature, almost another character, in this novel, as they play an equally helpful and hindering role in the search for Sergeant Knight. As Suttie describes the situation from the point of view of the Sky News staff and those who they source their information from, the reader gets a perception of every angle – from the police, from the relatives and friends of the victims and perpetrators and from the victims and perpetrators themselves. It is this balanced view that makes Road To Nowhere, like Neighbours From Hell and One Man Crusade before them, brilliant reads.

Special mention should go to Suttie’s brilliant choice of venue name for a truly brutal section of the book. The Segnalibro Sign Writing Co is an inspired bit of naming and it is shame that it was abandoned and used for such violent goings-on. Yet it worked so well and it brought a very big smile to my face!

My lovely friend Nichola, who has been reading these novels around the same time as I have, after she was captivated by One Man Crusade following my recommendation, was willing me to get cracking as she had already finished and it didn’t take me long to catch up because I couldn’t put it down. After a discussion over a nice meal this week, we were both in agreement that Suttie had absolutely smashed it with Road To Nowhere. Our gripes about the ending of Neighbours From Hell have been explored sufficiently and the main plot for this book is gripping and surprising throughout. The three books as trio would make a mind-blowing read for someone reading them one after the other and I sincerely hope that this is not the last we’ve seen of DCI Miller. There are so many storylines hinted at but not fully explored, and rightly so, in this novel but I would love to see them developed in future books. Nichola and I are waiting with baited breath to see if Suttie will oblige us with another instalment. Pretty, pretty please with sugar on top!!!!