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DEATH RIDE . . . Between the covers

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I can’t think of another modern crime writer who does truly despicable villains quite like Nick Oldham. His years policing the semi-derelict housing estates behind the candy-floss, donkey rides and silly hat persona of Blackpool’s seafront taught him that the feral inhabitants thrown up by these estates are not victims of social injustice or poverty; neither are they the product of years of exploitation by cruel capitalists. No. In short, they are absolute bastards, and no amount of hugging by wet-behind-the-ears social workers will make them anything else. In Death Ride, Oldham introduces us to as vile a group of criminals as he has ever created. Led by Lenny Lennox, they are ruthless predators; pickpocketing, catalytic converters, dog-napping, abduction, sexual assault – and murder – frame their lives.

We meet them at a country fair in retired copper Henry Christie’s home village, Kendleton – high on the Lancashire moors – where he runs the local pub. While Lenny Lennox serves burgers from his catering van, his son and three other youngsters pick pockets, steal cameras and strip high end vehicles of their valuable exhaust systems. Ernest Lennox, however has gone a bit further, and abducted a teenage girl who resisted his advances, and to cover up his son’s stupidity Lennox senior has to take drastic action.

Christie has recently been used as a civilian consultant by his former employers, and his last case ended with him being brutally stabbed and left for dead. When the hunt for the missing girl – Charlotte Kirkham – becomes a race against time, Christie, partly crippled by his knife wounds, is drawn into the hunt. I am reminded of the words of Tennyson in his magnificent poem Ulysses:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

In rather blunter terms, Oldham writes:

“If Henry was honest with himself, he felt the urge to drag Lennox out of the burger van and smash his face again, just for old times’ sake, even though he knew he didn’t have the physicality to put that desire into action.

The Lennox gang create carnage in Christie’s life – and the lives of those he loves – but about three quarters of the way through the book, there is an abrupt change of scene, and we are reunited with two characters from Christie’s past – FBI agent Karl Donaldson and ex special forces maverick, Steve Flynn. They say that revenge is both sweet and best served cold. Suffice it to say that Henry Christie enjoys his gelato.

The Henry Christie books have always had plenty of action and their fair share of grit and gore, but on this occasion, be warned. Nick Oldham goes into Derek Raymond territory here, with a dark and  terrifying novel which explores the depths of human malice and depravity. Death Ride is published by Severn House and will be available from 7th March. For more about Nick Oldham and the Henry Christie books, click the image below.

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HIDDEN CRIMES . . . Between the covers

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This is the 11th in the series featuring the life and crimes of Detective Sophie Allen. She has now reached the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent, and is heading up a new regional crime squad based in the ancient kingdom of Wessex. Their stamping ground is not dissimilar to the area portrayed in the lovely map which used to be the frontispiece in editions of Thomas Hardy’s novels. Equally helpful is Michael Hambling’s list of police characters at the front of his book.

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A consultant surgeon and her husband are out walking on the hills above the village of Millhead St Leonard, when they get caught in a rapidly descending mist. While there is no danger from stumbling into a ravine – this is gentle countryside – it is unsettling, and even more so when Miriam Boateng hears a scream, and then catches sight of two figures in the murk just ahead of her. One is definitely being pursued by the other. She reports this to the police, but it is not until a few days later, when a young farm worker out repairing fences finds a dead body, that it becomes obvious that what Boateng saw was the prelude to a savage crime. WeSCU springs into action, and moves in to the Millhead village hall to begin a major investigation. They soon identify the  corpse as that of Bridget Kirkbride, a single woman living with Grant, her college-age son in a remote part of the village.

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Michael Hambling (left) has already given us a little teaser in the first couple of pages, when we meet  as she is preparing to set out on what was to become her last journey. When Grant’s body is found caught up in reeds on the edge of the River Severn in Gloucester, the case becomes more complex, particularly so when the post mortem reveals that he died some days before his mother was killed. Hambling sets out the building blocks of a classic whodunnit, and challenges us to put them together in the correct sequence.

The residents of Millhead are, of course, unlike real life villagers, but this is why we suspend disbelief and buy crime novels. Amongst others, we have a pair of Mrs and Mrs lesbians who hold rather unconventional soirées for their close friends, a rather starchy vicar who is abducted half way through the book, and a ‘lovable rogue’ character who is a poacher and a party gate-crasher. I hope I’m not giving the impression that Hidden Crimes is some sort of Sunday evening TV comfy crime caper. It certainly is not, and parts of it are sombre and unsettling. The whodunnit aspect of the book ends well before the end (75% through on my Kindle), so the sense of mystery does rather evaporate, and the police pursuit ends in the less-than-idyllic streets of Wolverhampton when Sophie Allen is reunited with a criminal from one of her earlier cases.

The book cover is an artist’s impression of the celebrated view down Gold Hill, Shaftsbury, but the tone of the book is neither comfortable nor romantic, as befits a story which reveals the evils – and consequences – of child abuse. Hidden Crimes is a classic police procedural novel and it is played out on the hauntingly beautiful backdrop of the Wessex landscape. It is published by Joffe Books and is available now.

THE BROKEN AFTERNOON . . . Between the covers

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Cover copyIn Simon Mason’s A Killing In November we met Oxford DI Ryan Wilkins, and the book ended with his dismissal from the force for disciplinary reasons. In this book he is still in Oxford, but working as a security guard/general dogsbody at a van hire firm. His former partner, also named Wilkins, but Ray of that ilk, is now heading up the team that was once Ryan’s responsibility, and it is they who are tasked with investigating the abduction of a little girl from her nursery school.

Ryan and Ray are very different. Ryan is a single dad with a little boy, and somewhat rough round the edges. He was brought up on a caravan site and he is no matinee idol:

“He looked at himself in the mirror. Narrow face, grease-smear of scar tissue, big bony nose, all as familiar to him as his own smell.”

As a copper he was unorthodox, irreverent to his superiors, but with a real nose for the mean streets and those who walk them. Ray Wilkins is university educated – Balliol, no less –  a smooth dresser, good looking and at ease in press conferences; his partner Diane is pregnant with twins.

The search for four year-old Poppy Clarke is urgent, driven as much by the clamours of the media as the tearful anguish of Poppy’s mother. Ray is painfully aware of the adage about “the first forty eight hours”, but clues are scant, and he has exhausted the other convention of “close family member”

Ryan, meanwhile, has a mystery of his own to solve. Investigating a suspicious noise in the compound at Van Central, he discovers a man he had last heard of doing five years for burglary in HMP Grendon. Mick Dick is big, black, and sometimes violent, but he is down on his luck, and was trying to get into a transit van just to find somewhere to sleep out of the pouring rain. Ryan sends him on his way. The next day Ryan hears on the local news that there has been a hit and run case near North Hinksey where a body has been found at the side of the road. It is that of Michael Dick.

When the body of Poppy Clarke is found in a shallow grave in nearby woodland, the nature of the investigation changes. The urgency is replaced by a grim determination to find the killer. Time is now removed from the equation. Ryan has been doing his own nosing about into the death of Mick Dick, and finds he had been in contact with another former prison inmate called Sean Cobb. Cobb, however, is a very different kind of criminal from Mick Dick, and when Ryan tells Ray, Cobb becomes very definitely a person of interest in the hunt for Poppy Clarke’s killer. Ryan has also received a ‘phone call from his former boss, DCI Wallace, offering Ryan a carrot in the shape of a possible reinstatement.

We also meet Tom Fothergill, the millionaire boss of a company that produces high end pushchairs and prams. As part of his charitable work, he has helped ex-cons like Dick and Cobb, but how is he involved in the abduction and death of Poppy Clark?

One of the promotional blurbs for this novel declares:

“Mason has reformulated Inspector Morse for the 2020s”

Screen Shot 2022-12-27 at 19.53.09I am sorry, but that is not how I see this book. Yes, it is set in and around Oxford, but apart from The Broken Afternoon being every bit as good a read as, say, The Silence of Nicholas Quinn or The Remorseful Day, that’s where the resemblance ends. Mason’s book, while perhaps not being Noir in a Derek Raymond or Ted Lewis way, is full of dark undertones, bleak litter strewn public spaces, and the very real capacity for the police to get things badly, badly wrong. Simon Mason (right) has created  coppers who certainly don’t spend melancholy evenings gazing into pints of real ale and then sit home alone listening to Mozart while sipping a decent single malt.

The killer of Poppy Clark is eventually ‘unmasked’, but perhaps that cliche is inappropriate, as he has been hiding in plain sight all along. The more squeamish male readers may want to skip the section towards the end set in the hospital maternity unit. It is superbly written, but graphic: I went through that experience with three of my four sons, but on the fourth occasion the ‘phone call came too late – or perhaps I drove to the hospital too slowly.

This is a very, very good book and, while Wilkins and Wilkins are chalk and cheese to Morse and Lewis, I can recommend The Broken Afternoon to anyone who enjoys a good atmospheric and convincing English police procedural. It is published by Riverrun/Quercus and will be out in all formats on 2nd February 2023.

STAY BURIED . . . Between the covers

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Screen Shot 2022-10-01 at 19.38.56Writing as Katherine Webb, the author (left) is a well established writer of several books which seem to be in the romantic/historical/mystery genre, but I believe this is her first novel with both feet firmly planted on the  terra firma  of crime fiction. Wiltshire copper DI Matthew Lockyer, after a professional error of judgment, has been sidelined into a Cold Case unit, consisting of himself and Constable Gemma Broad.

He receives a telephone call from a most unexpected source. His caller is Hedy Lambert, a woman he helped convict of murder fourteen years earlier. The case was full of unexpected twists and turns, none more bizarre than the identity of the victim.  Harry, son of Emeritus Professor Roland Ferris had left home as a teenager and, seemingly, vanished from the face of the earth. Then he returns home to the Wiltshire village where his father lives. This variation on the tale of The Prodigal Son, takes a turn for the worse, however, when Harry’s dead body is discovered, and standing over it, clutching the murder weapon, is Ferris’s housekeeper Hedy Lambert. Problem is, it’s not Harry Ferris.

After a few days it transpires the the murder victim is actually Mickey Brown, a Traveller, who superficially resembles Harry. Despite the absence of any plausible motive Hedy Lambert is convicted of murder and found guilty, condemned almost entirely by  convincing forensic evidence. Now, Lambert has telephoned Lockyer from her prison to tell him that the real Harry Ferris has returned to his father’s house. Lockyer visits Longacres, Ferris’s house in the village of Stoke Lavington, to find the old man at death’s door with cancer of the blood and Harry Ferris totally unwilling to co-operate with the re-opening of the murder case.

As the story develops, we learn more about Lockyer and his background. His parents are what Americans call hardscrabble farmers, elderly and increasingly unable to make a living out of the farm or see any fruits for their lifetime of hard work. The obvious person to take over the farm was Lockyer’s brother Chris, but he is long dead, having been stabbed in a fracas outside a local pub. His killer has never been brought to justice.

One of the many admirable qualities of this book is that Kate Webb doesn’t take any prisoners in her portrayal of rural Wiltshire. Yes, there are obviously some beautiful places, but there are also farms which are bleak, wind-swept and run-down; there are villages and small towns with rough and tumble pubs which are no strangers to violence. Please don’t expect the sun-kissed limestone cottages and trim thatched roofs of Midsomer; this is Wiltshire in winter from a literal point of view, and metaphorically it is darker territory altogether.

On one level, Stay Buried is a superior whodunnit, as by the half way point Kate Webb has presented us with a tasty line-up of possible killers. There is Paul Rifkin, Ferris’s factotum, the real Harry Ferris, Tor Gravich, the young research assistant who was in Longacres at the time of the murder, Sean Hannington, a violent Traveller thug with a grudge against Mickey Brown, Serena Godwin, and even Roland Ferris himself. Or are we being led up the garden path, and is the killer Hedy Lambert after all? The eventual solution is elegant, complex and unexpected. On another level altogether, the book is a forensic examination of the nature of grief, guilt, and the corrosive effect of harbouring a desire for revenge.

This is excellent crime fiction, with a central character who has the quirks and flaws to make him totally credible. The geographical backdrop against which DI Matt Lockyer does his job is painted ‘warts and all’, lending a psychological darkness to proceedings. Stay Buried is published by Quercus and will available as listed below:

Kindle – 27th October 2022
Audiobook – 27th October 2022
Hardcover – 19th January 2023
Paperback – 29th July 2023

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DEMOLITION . . . Between the covers

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Former Lancashire copper and now best-selling novelist Nick Oldham doesn’t muck about. By the time you have read the first half dozen pages of his latest Henry Christie novel, we have had a gangster shot dead in his own swimming pool, another very rich but rather ‘iffy’ businessman bludgeoned to death with a huge spanner he has been using to rebuild a WW2 aircraft – and Henry himself dodging bullets.

High speed back story for new readers (Where have you been? This is book 30 in the series!) Henry Christie, former senior copper, now in his 50s, rather tragic ‘love life’, runs a pub in Kendleton on the Lancashire moors, frequently engaged by his former employers as a civilian investigator, usually involving crimes committed by local gangsters operating a kind of triangle-of-death between Preston, Blackpool and Fleetwood. No kiss-me-quick hats here, just deprivation, drugs and violence.

As has been customary in the recent novels, Christie is signed back on to help with the two murders – a perfectly plausible move by the Lancashire Constabulary, as  their staffing levels have taken a hit through Covid. Henry’s police ‘chaperone’ is DS Deb Blackstone. She is a feisty and competent officer who just happens to dress like a slightly deranged Goth, with spiked pink hair and all the trimmings.

Our man has other things on his plate, too. One of the regular groups to meet in his pub rather like rural Lancashire’s answer to The Thursday Murder Club, and the case they are currently working on is not so much cold as embedded in the permafrost. It concerns the murder of Lucas Grundy, back in 1941, and spice is added to the investigation by the fact that Eric, the murdered man’s brother is still alive, albeit aged 100. Christie learns from an elderly woman in the village that she believes Eric Grundy raped her, many decades earlier, but the crime was never properly dealt with.

A couple of days before Lucas Grundy was murdered, a Heinkel bomber, damaged in a raid, crashed on the moors nearby. Three of the five-man crew died at the scene and were buried in the local churchyard, but nothing was ever found of the other two. Was it possible that they were somehow involved in Grundy’s death, and how did they simply seem to disappear of the face of the earth?

As a humble reviewer, I can’t begin to comprehend how Nick Oldham keeps so many sub plots going at the same time without the narrative collapsing in confusion. One metaphor, I suppose, is that of the plate-spinning juggler, who manages not to break any of the plates, but stacks them neatly one on top of the other at the end of his performance. Oldham rounds off the action with his customary inventiveness and panache, but be warned  – there is a particularly venomous sting in the tail. Demolition is published by Severn House, and is available now.

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FROM THE ASHES . . . Between the covers

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Deborah Masson is back with another gritty police thriller set in her home town of Aberdeen. This time, DI Eve Hunter (previously seen in Out For Blood and Hold Your Tongue) faces the grimmest challenge presented to police officers all over the world – the death of a child. Lucas Fyfe – dead mother, drug addicted father and unfeeling grandmother – has been in care since he was little. When someone deliberately sets fire to Wellwood, a children’s home, he is the one resident who doesn’t make it out. Why? Because the body of the eleven year-old is discovered in the cellar, and the trapdoor which is the only access is concealed under a heavy carpet.

Literally from page one, Masson gives us another perspective – that of the presumed arsonist. We know it’s a ‘he’, and we know that he was a former resident of Wellwood when it was run by the current warden’s father, William Alderton and the sadistic Sally Fields. I find that the backstory narrative trope can be irritating when an author uses too many viewpoints and too many time frames, but here it is used with subtlety and works very well.

Eve Hunter’s team consists of DS Cooper, DS Mearns and DC Ferguson, and the sparky dynamics between them provide an intriguing counterpoint to the investigation. Scott Ferguson is peripherally involved in a road accident on his way to work, but his obsession with the young man who was the main casualty starts to distract him from the Wellwood case. When a further shocking discovery is made in the cellar where Lucas Fyfe died, Ferguson’s lack of attention becomes even more serious. We eventually learn why Ferguson feels compelled to be at the bedside of the young vagrant who was badly injured in the RTA, and it turns the case on its head.

Hunter and her team soon realise that the surviving children and the three adult staff of Wellwood are not telling all that they know. That much is obvious, but penetrating the veil of secrecy proves more difficult. With both of the original owners dead, and local Children’s Services being very protective of the few remaining historic records of the children who were residents, the case seems to go round in circles, until Ferguson’s with Archie, the young RTA victim, finally pays off.

Deborah Masson is a writer who enjoys providing her readers with the unexpected, and the finale of the novel, in the grim basement of Wellwood, is a prime example. Eve Hunter comes over as tough and uncompromising in pursuit of the bad guys, but her family background has left her with a strong streak of compassion, and when Scott Ferguson finally reveals his own secrets – and his link to the Wellwood basement – she is well-equipped to provide emotional support.

This novel is dark, cleverly plotted, full of well-concealed surprises and a master class in how to write a good police-procedural. From The Ashes is published by Transworld/Penguin and is available now.

BAD FOR GOOD . . . Between the covers

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This hard-hitting police thriller is set in an English city renowned for its sea air, Regency buildings and – latterly – the Green-ness of its politics. It has also been a surprisingly popular setting for crime novels. Think Pinkie Brown, Roy Grace and Colin Crampton. We are talking, of course, about Brighton. Now we have a new character on the scene, in the shape of Joanne Howe, Detective Superintendent with Sussex police.

BFG coverThe plot hinges around a series of dire events in the life of Jo Howe’s boss, Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Cooke. Already trying to keep his mind on the job while his wife is dying of cancer, fate deals him another cruel blow when his son Harry, a promising professional footballer, is murdered, seemingly a casualty in a drug turf war. He steps down, but then comes into contact with a shadowy group of apparent vigilantes, who tell him that Harry was not the clean-cut sporting hero portrayed in the local media – he was heavily into performance enhancing drugs. The vigilantes – whose business plan is to provide a highly illegal alternative police force, where customers pay for the quick results that the Sussex Constabulary seem unable to provide – blackmail Phil into standing in the election of Police and Crime Commissioner. He is forced to agree, and is elected.

Meanwhile, things go from bad to worse for Jo Howe and her team. As they try to get to the bottom of Harry Cooke’s murder, an arrest goes badly wrong, and one of her Detective Inspectors – Bob Heaton – kills the suspect with his baton. He is jailed. Howe realises that there is some kind of vigilantes-for-profit group at large and she organises a sting operation at a local pub. When the bad guys flee the scene the ensuing pursuit goes pear-shaped, an officer is badly injured and the targets escape. Then the vigilantes fire bomb the pub in retaliation, the landlord dies and Howe has a furious dressing down from her chief constable. All is not what it seems, however, and Graham Bartlett lets us know that people very high up in the senior ranks of the police are as crooked as the proverbial dog’s hind leg.

The vigilantes are operating under the banner of an ostensibly respectable security outfit, but both they and the police seem equally clueless as to the identity of Harry Cooke’s killer. Bob Heaton’s boyfriend Chris – aka ‘Crush’ – works for the security firm, and Jo Howe persuades Bob – now released from jail but jobless – to infiltrate the organisation. Harry Cooke’s killer is finally identified, and the race is on to see who can get to him first, the police or the vigilantes.

Screen Shot 2022-06-19 at 20.35.27Graham Bartlett (right) was a police officer for thirty years and mainly policed the city of Brighton and Hove, rising to become a Chief Superintendent and its police commander, so it is no accident that this is  a grimly authentic police procedural. It is also very topical as, away from the violence and entertaining mayhem, it focuses on the seemingly insoluble problem of the divide between the public’s expectations of policing, and what the force is actually able – or willing – to deliver. Bartlett doesn’t over-politicise his story but, reading between the lines – and I may be mistaken – I suspect he may feel that, with ever more limited resources, the police should not be so keen to divert valuable time and resources away from their core job of catching criminals. My view. and it may not be his, is that effusive virtue signaling by police forces in support of this or that social justice trend does them – nor most of us –  no favours at all.

Bad From Good is an excellent debut novel. I hope it heralds a long running series, and I eagerly await the follow-up. Published by Allison & Busby, the book is out in all formats on 23rd June.

THE FIRE KILLER . . . Between the covers

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My excuse is that I am a one-man-band here at Fully Booked, and notwithstanding  the occasional erudite contribution from Stuart Radmore (who has forgotten more about crime fiction than most people will ever know), there are only so many books I can read and review properly. My first experience of Peterborough copper DI Barton  is the fifth of the series (written by Ross Greenwood), The Fire Killer. Peterborough is a big place, at least for us Fenland townies, but is rarely featured in CriFi novels. I am pretty sure that Peter Robinson’s DI Banks grew up there (The Summer That Never Was) and Eva Dolan’s Zigic and Ferreira books are certainly set in the city.

Peterborough is a strange city in some ways. Its heart is divided in three. One third is its medieval heritage and its magnificent cathedral; another third is its railway history, while the final slice belongs to the fact that some anonymous civil servants decided, in the 1950s, that it should be a ‘new town’. Hence its sprawling suburbs, divided by interminable dual carriageways and countless roundabouts, stippled with anonymous housing developments, most with the faux-pastoral suffix – choose your own – such as Meadows, Leys, Gardens, Fields and even Waters. I digress. No matter that Peterborough isn’t quite sure whether it is in Cambridgeshire or Northamptonshire, this novel is rather good.

We are in standard police procedural territory here. DI John Barton is large, bald, busy, rather unglamorous, but a decent copper. He and his team are called in to investigate a body found in a skip that has been deliberately set alight. The body is eventually identified as that of a young woman whose life has unraveled after she had fleeting success as a fashion model. Barton and his ‘oppo’, Sergeant Zander, are sure that the culprit lives in one of a row of four shabby terraced houses not far from the skip, but which one is the home of the arsonist?

Screen Shot 2022-05-20 at 19.51.23Ross Greenwood (right) has fun inviting us to make out own guesses, but also makes the game a little more interesting by giving us intermittent chapters narrated by The Fire Killer, but he is very wary about giving us too many clues. The dead girl, Jess Craven had been involved with a very rich dentist with links – as a customer – to the London drug trade.

There are a couple of other mysterious blazes, but when one of Barton’s suspects meets a horrifying end in another fire – but this time in a torched Transit van – the search for The Fire Killer just seems to be chasing its own tale. The rich dentist, Stefan Russo, is clearly hiding something, but he is ‘lawyered up’ and even though he has some very questionable contacts in London, the police are unable to get close to him.

Then, there is a breakthrough – or at least Barton thinks it is – and someone confesses to being The Fire Killer. As readers we can judge how much of the book is left, and it is clear to us that Barton has some work still to do before he closes the case. There is, as we might predict, a very clever twist in the tale, but when an exhausted Barton finally goes off for a family caravan holiday in Sunny Hunny (Hunstanton), we suspect that at the back of his mind there is still a some doubt about the true identity of The Fire Killer.

John Barton is an excellent creation, and this book is cleverly plotted, with one or two spectacular bursts of serious violence. It is published by Boldwood Books, and will be available in paperback and Kindle from 30th May.

LAST SEEN ALIVE . . . Between the covers

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Screen Shot 2022-04-16 at 20.05.42Last Seen Alive is the third  book by Jane Bettany (left) featuring the Derbyshire copper DI Isabel Blood. The story begins when Anna Matheson, a single mother who works at a large confectionery firm, fails to pick up her infant son from the child minder after a social event at work. Lauren Talbot, the child minder, raises the alarm late at night, but precious hours elapse before morning comes and the police are able to start making enquiries.

I wonder where crime stories would be without the ever-reliable assistance of dog walkers? Inevitably, it is one such who makes the grim discovery of a body which turns out to be that of Anna Matheson. She has been strangled, but there is no evidence of sexual assault. Isabel Blood’s team begin their investigations at Allwoods – the successful firm where Anna was marketing manager. The firm is jointly owned by Fay Allwood – widow of Barry – and their son, Ross. Suspicion initially falls on a member of the management team, James Derenby, who has been unsuccessfully trying to date Anna for some time, but this is, apparently, a blind alley.

Isabel Blood is convinced that the key to the mystery lies in discovering who was the the father of Benedict – the dead woman’s baby son. Anna Matheson had steadfastly and consistently refused to reveal his identity – even to her own mother. What follows is an intensely complex voyage of discovery for the detectives, as they encounter what becomes almost a criminal version of Who Do You Think You Are? Old secrets are revealed and – like creatures scuttling away from the light when a large flat stone is lifted – many people try to avoid their past indiscretions being made public.

DI Blood is an interesting character. Lord knows, there are probably as many Detective Inspectors in crime fiction as there are real ones, so what makes her stand out? Thankfully, she is happily married, comfortable in her own skin and, praise be, we don’t have regular updates about her CD collection. Like many of her fictional counterparts, she is constantly being admonished by her boss for becoming too involve with cases and doing more investigating than inspecting. Another reason for the empathetic portrayal of the Derbyshire detective is, I suspect, that she and her creator are in more or less of the same age and, perhaps, family circumstances.

Last Seen Alive is elaborately plotted, totally convincing, and as good an example of a contemporary English police procedural as you are likely to find. It is published by HQ Digital (Harper Collins), is out now in Kindle, and will be available as a paperback on June. If you want to read my review of the previous novel Without A Trace click the link.

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