Parsons's tough-guy copper takes on smugglers trading in migrants' lives
Die Last Tony Parsons
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, worth €6bn a year. Some 90pc of migrants into Europe use smuggling routes in what is one of the more troubling geopolitical symptoms of modern times. Stowed away inside lorries or shipping containers (if they've been lucky enough to avoid a sea journey), the trafficked are incredibly vulnerable to the well-being or whims of those who hold the keys.
For Tony Parsons, the former music hack-turned-best-selling crime author who has made an atmospheric crime nest out of his native London, the 21st century slave trade makes a perfect bear pit into which to throw his no-nonsense protagonist, DC Max Wolfe.
In stark detail, the opening chapter charts a doomed journey for a group of refugee women in the back of a refrigerated truck. Sobering explanations of the medical science behind how hypothermia kills off organs one by one put the reader at the coalface of this humanitarian crisis.
When London detectives open up a mysterious lorry container that has been abandoned in Chinatown, they discover the bodies of 12 women inside. The problem - and the juicy hinge upon which Parsons swivels the entire thriller - is that 13 passports are found at the scene as well. One of the women has survived the ordeal. But how? And what fate awaited her afterwards? Finding her could help Wolfe crack the smuggling ring behind the carnage.
Wolfe is straight on to his contacts in the vice industry and follows a scent through the London underworld that takes him everywhere from a motorway brothel run by a mob heir to the refugee cities at Dunkirk.
DC Wolfe is well-established by this stage as a tough cookie - this is Parsons's fourth outing for the West End Central blueblood - but the crime hits a slight nerve in him as most of its victims are young women not too many years older than his daughter, Scout. This is about as much vulnerability as we're going to see in Max so enjoy it. Parsons likes his men to be men.
Die Last clips along at a brisk pace while importantly highlighting a crime that is more tangibly real in today's world than the idiosyncratic serial killers DC Wolfe is usually pitted against. Perfect, then, as a page-turner for the beach, but perhaps not a huge amount else.