High drama: drugs and a troubled detective

Jennie Ensor’s latest book says a lot about how police struggle to cope with rising organised crime, writes Peter Gruner

Thursday, 17th March — By Peter Gruner

Jennie Ensor

Highgate author Jennie Ensor: ‘I believe our drug policy has failed and needs to be overhauled’

]ZOM, a north London gangland leader and class A drug dealer, is suspected of the senseless and brutal murder of a 15-year-old schoolgirl. Oh, and he drives a BMW and enjoys expensive meals in restaurants in Primrose Hill.

His pursuer is overworked and stressed Detective Inspector Callum Waverley. The DI appears to live on so-called healthy granola bars, but life is so bad that even these are stolen from his car during the investigation, presumably by members of the gang.

Highgate author Jennie Ensor’s excellent new thriller Silenced says a lot about today’s police struggling to cope with a rising tide of organised crime.

The book begins with innocent teenager Solita Milton walking home from school, thinking about what to buy her sister for her birthday and her determination to get good grades at school which hopefully will get her into university.

Two young hooded men appear and suddenly she’s been stabbed to death.

A lot of the action takes place close to a Haringey council estate, scene of the tragic murder, where a gang of drug dealers called Skull Crew appear to rule the roost.

We learn that Solita’s distraught mum, Bev, a local school teacher, has a son with recent connections to gangs. Is that a clue to her daughter’s ghastly killing?

Mrs Milton, whose husband died six years ago, is a well-educated professional whose bookcase includes everything from Dickens to Jamie Oliver.

Waverley has his own problems. He is recently separated from his wife Kate and has difficulties communicating with his teenage son. But he does have empathy: He says: “One of the worst parts of the job is having to witness the grief of bereaved families. I yearned to feel less useless in the face of their misery.”

The gang sells drugs on the streets of north London and towns all over the south-east. They intimidate residents on local estates and business owners face extortion but are too frightened to give information.

The pressure on DI Waverley is enormous when after almost three weeks police still haven’t identified suspects or arrested anyone in connection with Solita’s murder.

There’s further humiliation for the DI. Someone has left an artificial human skull in the glove compartment of his car.

From habit down-in-the dumps DI Waverley takes out his phone and starts tapping out a text to his wife Kate. “Having a crap day…”

Then he remembers: “Shit. How had I forgotten? My wife didn’t want to hear from me anymore.”

Zom takes his girlfriend Jessamine to a posh restaurant in Primrose Hill where he expresses his love for her. The girl is becoming reluctant to be his girlfriend, particularly after she has to carry his Zombie knife. “Zom pays the bill,” Ensor writes. “The waiter takes the wad of 20s and the two have a little banter. The waiter is kiss-arse polite.”

Things get so worrying for Waverley that he orders the latest in home security. It features high-definition, wide-angle night vision video cameras and facial recognition software, which would send updates of any unusual activity outside his home to his PC and mobile phone.

Ensor told Review how during her research she listened to suggestions about how to deter young people from a life of crime. “Some mentioned the cuts to youth services and youth clubs at a time when they are more needed than ever.

“I personally think we need to do far more to channel older children and young people into constructive activities, especially in the areas of cities that are most affected by youth violence and gang-related crime.

“We should also adequately fund charities that mentor and inspire older children and young people, and help them to leave or avoid getting into gangs. Also, we should create job opportunities in these areas. The other important thing – my view is controversial – but I believe our drug policy has failed and needs to be overhauled. Ever harsher sentencing etc is counter-productive, increases drug prices and encourages ever-younger kids to get into drug dealing and gangs.”

She’s written four novels, including Blind Side, reviewed favourably in this paper in 2017. Her advice to would- be young writers?

“Practise writing often, about what you see, hear and smell around you (people on buses and cafés are ideal), read masses and learn from better writers. Enjoy the journey to wherever you want to be, and accept that there will be setbacks along the way.”

Silenced. By Jennie Ensor, Hobeck Books, £9.99

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