Games People Play - Owen Mullen - Book Cover
Detective, Mystery & Thriller

Games People Play – Owen Mullen

Glaswegian detective Charlie Cameron hides his inability to come to terms with the past behind a callous attitude and an obsessive drive to do his job.


Charlie Cameron #1

This is an intriguing psychological thriller! Based in Glasgow, there is a detective, a loner with no close friends but a few acquaintances. His name is Charlie Cameron and his motivation to find people who have gone missing dates back to his youth when his sister was abducted. She was never found. Charlie is good at what he does but tends to be in way too deep, taking on cases he has trouble solving, disregarding everyone around him. No wonder he ends up arguing with the whole world, getting hurt in the process…


Meet Charlie Cameron, a private detective who tracks missing people. He is a rough diamond, a man who hides his true self behind a callous attitude and who does not easily let people slip through his carefully built wall. There is hurt in the past, an almost irreparable trauma caused by his sister going missing when they were children. Despite endless efforts and investigations, she was never found. Charlie blames himself and feels his parents do too, especially his father. Add to the disappointment his father feels that his son not following his (successful) footsteps and you can imagine Charlie’s unwillingness, even stubbornness, about coming home. His sister’s abduction lays heavily on Charlie and it is only towards the end of the book that we fully realise the extent of his feelings. No wonder that the police officer, who was leading the investigation back in the day, has become a friend of Charlie’s, one might say a father figure to him.

Is it because of his sister’s kidnapping that Charlie is great at what he does: finding people. It is his motivation driving him to go the extra mile and to enable him to empathise with the relatives who are desperate to find their loved ones and bring them home. But if Charlie tracks down persons who are happy living like they are, he has no problem returning to his client saying so. As you can imagine, this is not an attitude that attracts new clients. Therefore Patrick (Pat), the man who wants to work full time for Charlie, would like him to advertise more in order to get more clients. His next client is a man who is about to lose everything. It started out innocently enough: a happy little family enjoying a day at the beach. The day turns into a nightmare when the mother decides to take another dive but has trouble surfacing, the father saves his wife leaving their baby unattended: when they see the empty buggy they are in shock.

The police have started a full investigation but the father suspects his former girlfriend Donna of taking his baby girl Lily. He dares not mention the affair to his wife nor the fact that he thinks her responsible for the abduction and that is why he is so desperate for Charlie to find Lily and bring her home. His former girlfriend made all sorts of threats against him and his wife and he fears to kidnap Lily is her way of getting revenge. At the same time the parents of an eighteen-year-old girl that has run away from home contact Charlie to find their daughter. There was a row, one of many apparently, after which she left home. The parents are pointing an accusing finger towards her teacher whom they suspect of having an affair with their daughter. Two separate cases, two girls missing and Charlie knows he is supposed to find them, but draws a blank wherever he turns. The longer Lily is out there, the less chance there is of her being alive.

Charlie makes a terrible mistake, there is no other way of putting it. By not informing the police about Donna valuable time is lost. No wonder his friend Detective Sergeant Andrew Geddes is furious. The new information has a devastating effect on Lily’s mother, but still, they are nowhere near finding Lily. Charlie is having nightmares and reliving his sister’s abduction over and over again. When Charlie receives the old police file of his sister’s case and on top of that the buried body of a little girl is found, he feels he has lost it and goes ballistic. However, she isn’t Lily – but there definitely is a murderer at work. Will Charlie find the missing 18-year-old girl and, more important, baby Lily? Every lead he uncovers leaves him with nothing, Donna seems to have vanished into thin air. We have seen a woman with Lily, planning an escape. What is going on, where is Donna, where is Lily, who has murdered the little girl and buried her?

Finding the murderer of the baby girl is Andrew Geddes’ responsibility and the gruesome facts are killing him. It puts a strain on everything, his marriage, his friendship with Charlie. Meanwhile, Charlie is desperate for results and is frustrated by his inability to grasp what happened. Why is everyone around him telling lies? He argues with them all and ends up alone, without any answers or possible solutions. Is Lily still alive? The chances are highly unlikely but Charlie needs results, needs to be able to save this little girl where he could not do so for his sister. And then there is Pat who also struggles with his marriage, whose appearance is only an act he puts on. As the plot unfolds we only fully realise the cruelty of the murderer and the problems and challenges Charlie is facing, both at work and in private.

My Thoughts

If one thing becomes clear in this intriguing psychological novel set in Glasgow, it is that all people play games. We all hide behind our exterior and put on a face for the world outside. Can you truly understand people, their motivation to act as they do? I found the novel well-written and gripping; the strength for me lies in the fact that it is as much about the cases as it is about normal people dealing with the consequences of their own behaviour, in short, ‘life’. As for Charlie, it must be frustrating to excel in your job and yet be unable to find the one responsible for your sister’s abduction. I thought Charlie was touching as I witnessed him struggling with himself: there is anger and hurt just under the surface, influencing his behaviour. Charlie has a strong sense of morality and does what he thinks is justified. Perhaps he is trying to make up for failing his sister and therefore wants to protect people and keep them safe.

The other instalments in the Charlie Cameron series:
#2 Old Friends and New Enemies my review
#3 Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

About the Author

Owen Mullen Author Image

When he was ten, Owen Mullen won a short story competition and didn’t write anything else for almost forty years. In between he graduated from Strathclyde University with a Masters in Tourism and a degree in Marketing, moved to London, led a life full of travelling and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, he had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; on occasion he still performs. He returned to Scotland to run a management consultancy and a marketing agency. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow – where the Charlie Cameron books are set – and their villa in the Greek Islands. The first story he wrote after all those years he classifies as “bloody terrible“. Nevertheless, he kept going. And with success. His moral: “find something you’re good at and stick with it.

Book Info

 Paperback   336 pages
 Publisher   Bloodhound Books (19 Jan. 2017)
 Language   English
 ISBN-10  0995692645
 ISBN-13  978-0995692640


  • rwcrouch

    Thank you for a great review. I have this book on my Kindle and i want to start it right now.

    • Caroline Vincent

      Thank you for your kind comment. I’m interested to hear your opinion. Do tell me what you think of the book.

      • rwcrouch

        I started reading yesterday and I have to say the writing and characterisation are excellent.

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