The Blurb On The Back:
Alex should never have agreed to the spur-of-the-moment holiday with her sister. Seven days felt like a year without Daniel, her ten-year-old son. This was the first time they had been apart since he was born and her husband had convinced her it was a good idea.
It was a bad idea.
Daniel has gone missing.
As local CID officers, David Stone and Frankie Oliver have been assigned their first case together. A small boy’s fate lies in their hands and the pressure is on.
And when someone close to Daniel is found dead, they begin to feel the heat.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
Detective Inspector David Stone has recently transferred from the Metropolitan Police to CID in Northumbria, the region where he grew up. No one in the squad really knows why he made the move – although he says it’s to be closer to his brother Luke – but he was willing to take a demotion to do it. Detective Sergeant Frankie Oliver is the third generation of her family to serve in the police and she’s still trying to figure Stone out when Tim Parker comes to the station to report the disappearance of his 10-year-old step-son Daniel. The family nanny – Justine Segal – was supposed to pick Daniel up from football practice but got a message from Tim saying that he would do so instead. Only Tim denies ever sending the message. Worse, Daniel’s mother – Alex – is due home that day following a holiday to Majorca with her sister, Kat – a holiday that Tim urged her to go on.
Although it’s been less than 24 hours since the boy went missing, Oliver has a bad feeling about the case and given that Parker is a high profile local entrepreneur who knows the local Chief Constable, she persuades Stone to gear up the squad to start looking for him. But the search uncovers secrets within the Parker family and when Justine is found dead in what appears to be a tragic accident, it’s only the start of Oliver and Stone’s problems …
Mari Hannah’s crime novel (the first in a series) has some interesting character development, it’s interesting to see a series focus on the victims and their families and the Northumbria region is lovingly described but there’s a lot of set up here and neither the relationship between Stone and Oliver nor a number of revelations feel earned (especially a key revelation at the end) such that I’m not sure I’m going to rush to read the sequel.
Given that this is the first in a series, there’s inevitably a lot of set-up needed here but I found it very heavy handed. For example, Hannah makes a big deal about the uneasy ‘getting-to-know-each-other’ stage in the relationship between Stone and Oliver but at the same time seems keen to make readers believe that there’s a natural and inevitable affection between them, which to be honest I found very forced. I also thought that the background of each character was over-egged and would have preferred to have seen this drawn out more over the series as a whole because some developments (e.g. Stone’s relationship with his nephew Ben and the allusions to a dark occurrence in Frankie’s childhood) didn’t add much to this story and really got in the way of the character development.
Writing-wise, I found the head-hopping between characters very clunky and it frequently threw me out of the story while I didn’t quite understand why the reason for Stone’s move was such a secret given that the revelations that do get made suggest that Oliver could have used Google to get the answer if it mattered so much to her. However given that Hannah lives in Northumbria, you get a real sense of her love for the region, which is evocatively described.
The character development for Alex and Tim was more believable – especially Alex whose panic at the disappearance of her son and the slow disintegration of her relationship with Tim as emotional fractures get exposed was subtle. I did like the focus on the victims and their family in this book, as it’s not a perspective that gets a lot of attention in crime fiction generally. However some of the revelations in the second half did push credibility for me, especially the final key revelation which did not ring true given some of the earlier points about that character.
Ultimately there’s an awful lot of set-up going on in this book and, for me, it came at the expense of the plot and pacing (which is quite uneven as Hannah levers in the backstory) such that I’m really not sure I’d rush to read the sequel.
Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.