Written by Mari Hannah — It’s a strange law of nature in publishing, but the third novel is very often the breakout novel for a new crime fiction author. Deadly Deceit is no exception. Good though the previous two books in the Kate Daniels series were, Mari Hannah really hits her stride with this one. This is a writer comfortable with her material and a style all her own, with increasingly memorable and compelling characters.
The book opens with two separate serious incidents: a gruesome pile-up on the A1 in Northumberland, and a house fire which leaves a baby and his father dead. The only connection between the two appears to be the horrified reaction of the emergency services. It soon emerges that somebody was ruthless enough to profit from the confusion amidst the carnage at the scene of the accident. Why was elderly Ivy Kerr, who survived the accident which killed her husband, murdered instead of rescued?
Someone was also cold-blooded enough to watch the house in Newcastle burn down, knowing that the people trapped inside would not be heard in the revelry of a street party to celebrate an England win in the 2010 World Cup. A day later, the elderly next-door neighbour and witness to the crime scene drops dead: was it a heart attack or another murder? And just why is the voyeuristic, bolshy teenager Chantelle Fox popping up at at every crime scene? DCI Kate Daniels and her partner DS Hank Gormley try to discover some connection between, or reason for, the crimes. A word of warning for squeamish readers – some of this does not make for very comfortable reading. However, the scenes are never gratuitously violent and it is mainly the psychological mindset of the killer that is truly disturbing.
The puzzle is satisfyingly meaty and complex, and the author conveys a real sympathy and understanding for the less glamorous aspects of police officers’ lives. It is refreshing to find sensitive detectives with real depth, but without any flashy gimmicks. Kate Daniels is tough yet tender, an ambitious woman who has struggled to reach the top in a man’s world and is not willing to compromise her career by acknowledging her sexual preferences. Uncompromisingly honest as she is in her professional tasks, she appears oddly vulnerable and timid in her personal life, which makes both the reader and her partner Hank Gormley feel protective of her. She and Gormley are detectives with soul and integrity, who struggle to make sense of the grim truths they unearth. Yet they both start succumbing to a general state of paranoia, unable to trust anyone, as each witness or suspect in their investigation seems to have something to hide. Even the secondary characters are well rounded, fragile, appealing despite their deviousness. Just a step ahead of them is the criminal mastermind leading them all a fine dance.
This is a tightly-written, well-plotted book with gripping action, which should please all fans of police procedurals. It is a joy to watch how skilfully the author weaves in and out of storylines, viewpoints and moods to serve up a hearty criminal buffet.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars