Kate Rhodes

Hell Bay

"...a series that will become a must-read. "


DI Ben Kitto, a native of Bryher, returns home after a tragedy has brought his career in the Metropolitan Police to an abrupt halt. Guilt and grief over the death of his partner, Clare, in the course of an investigation that was led by Ben, makes him reassess his life. Though no official blame is attached to him, he blames himself, and has come to Bryher to recuperate and to consider his future.

He arrives in the middle of a panic about a missing teenage girl, Laura Trescothick. Shortly after his arrival, Laura's body is washed up on the shore, a victim of a fatal stabbing. Ben, experienced in the investigation of murder, offers his assistance to the local senior officer, DCI Alan Madron. Madron accepts, and Ben finds himself leading another murder investigation, this time with a team of one detective, in a situation where the killer must almost certainly be someone he has known (and possibly liked) all his life.

The case is complex involving the vagaries of an island such as Bryher where smugglers still ply their trade, small communities are split by rivalries and alliances and people have their own reasons for telling, or for concealing, what they know. As Ben struggles to find the truth of Laura's death, he is hampered by the victim's own secrecy, the hostility between Laura's grieving family and the family of her boyfriend, Daniel Curnow. Any of these people, and many others could be the killer . Ben cannot decide if it is guilt or fear that is keeping people silent.

Ben finds out that Bryher, though apparently crime free, in fact has a drug problem, serious concerns about smugglers and the intimidation of residents to persuade them to sell their properties. The killer can move freely around the island, leaving threats that are fulfilled when a second murder takes place. Ben has to disentangle the crime he is investigating from the complex world his investigation reveals.

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Fans of Kate Rhodes' Alice Quentin series will miss the forensic psychologist, but will be pleased to see Rhodes return with the first book of a new series Rhodes has moved to a location not much explored in crime and mystery fiction, the isolated communities of the Scilly Isles off the coast of Cornwall, and specifically to one of the smaller inhabited islands, Bryher, which has a small year-round community, and a larger summer community of tourists and other visitors. Rhodes develops her mystery well. The island setting allows her to explore some of the tropes of a long-discredited genre, the locked-room mystery. 'Hell Bay ' does not require contrived McGuffins such as secret rooms and bullets made of ice. The island does the job, and a storm at the time of Laura's disappearance locks the door of Rhodes' setting with elegance and conviction. The island itself is a central character. Its geography and geology are integral to the plot, as are its dark and often bleak settings, a beautiful tourist location where the rocks hidden by the tides can smash boats to pieces, isolated communities and dark tracts of land hide secrets very effectively. It provides a brooding and atmospheric background to a narrative that is satisfyingly complex, if sometimes a bit slow-moving. Ben Kitto, his dog, Shadow and the island of Bryher promise a series that will become a must-read. If you enjoy tense, complex thrillers, then 'Hell Bay' is a treat in store.

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