The Back Road (TBR) was an infuriating experience. As in her first DCI Tom Douglas book Only the Innocent (OTI), Rachel Abbott seems to have found a new recipe for crime thrillers : keeping the police in the background while any progress in the plot comes from the characters themselves. DCI Tom Douglas is not even in the police any more and plays a minor role. As for the police 'in charge' of the crime they only make rare appearances and certainly play no part in its resolution. The unfurling of the plot is very slow-paced and doesn't seem to be getting anywhere for about 250 pages. Only the last 50 pages make for gripping reading. As in OTI, TBR drags on on on. Repeatedly, when it looks as if a conversation is going to lead to a revelation or a significant advance in the plot, the characters are interrupted by a phone call and the reader is left to wait until that particular subject is picked up again. If that gimmick was meant to create suspense, it fails miserably and leads to a sense of mounting frustration.
As for the characters, they are either two-dimensional, with no real depth in them, or do not go beyond the simplistic, sterotyped caricature. Men are seen very negatively, being either violent wife-batterers, obsessed stalkers, rapists or self-important bores. One of the main female characters, Ellie, is endlessly dithering and in the grip of paranoia, page after endless page. I found myself skipping entire 'Ellie' pages. Finally, as in OTI, the characters keep secrets or essential information from each other throughout most of the book, which again prevents plot development. This is not a page turner but a page filler.