Secrets of the Dead

Written by Carol Wyer — Rachel Abbott is a name mentioned in awed tones in crime fiction circles. Her books have sold by the truckload and she’s the UK’s best-loved self-published author, with sales many traditionally published writers can only dream of. You can read a review of The Sixth Window, her latest novel, here.

Carol Wyer has ploughed that same furrow – and found success too – but the former self-published writer of romantic comedies and humorous non-fiction moved to crime this year with a thriller series featuring DI Robyn Carter, set in Staffordshire and published by Bookouture. The first, Little Girl Lost, grabbed second spot in the Kindle sales chart, while Secrets of the Dead came out at the end of May – and number three in the series, The Missing Girls, is due out in September.

I’ve put that last date in my diary, because Robyn Carter is a character I definitely want to meet again. We first meet her at a moment of triumph. After an anonymous tip-off, a robber is about to be apprehended and it’s all systems go. Then things begin to unravel, big time. Their so-called suspect is revealed to be a blind man, and Carter and her team have been on the receiving end of a practical joke.

It’s just another blot on her already scruffy-looking copybook and Carter knows she has to buck her ideas up or face being sidelined. Fellow DI Tom Shearer is in the ascendancy and he takes every opportunity to lord it over Robyn, so when she is contacted with new information about one of his cases, she jumps at the chance to get one up on her rival.

Miles Ashbrook, manager of swanky Bromley Hall hotel and spa has been found dead in the hotel’s sauna, his dried-out body discovered by a cleaner. Cause of death? A heart attack; open and shut case. But Robyn’s friend Tricia thinks she knows better. Miles and her late brother were an item, and Miles had a heart condition and would never have gone into a sauna. Robyn is intrigued, and when Shearer dismisses the new evidence out of hand she determines to investigate on her own time – until a serial killer dubbed the Lichfield Leopard by the local press begins his reign of terror…

His first victim is Rory Wallis, a harassed bar manager. It’s been a tough night at The Happy Pig in Lichfield town centre. A particularly rowdy stag party has driven all of Rory’s regulars away and things are about to get much, much worse. The following day, the teetotal barman is found murdered, his throat cut, an empty bottle of Champagne at his side and a strange receipt in his hand, recording payment due of an eye-watering £250,000, the words ‘paid in full’ scrawled across it in red ink.

As the body count rises, so does the running total of money owed (and paid in full) – but who can be behind the brutal murders? What is his or her motivation? Is there a link to Bromley Hall? And was Miles Ashbrook one of the earlier victims? In truth, I’d worked out the whodunit aspect pretty early on, but I still enjoyed following the process and learning more about Robyn and her team along the way.

This author is a dab hand at characterisation and she has created an eclectic bunch who are great company. In addition to the fabulous Robyn, Shearer, Ross, Mitz and Anna are the standouts for me. Carol Wyer lives in Staffordshire and her local knowledge shines through in descriptions of towns and landscapes that are obviously close to her heart.

Secrets of the Dead reads fine as a stand alone work, but I’m planning on giving Little Girl Lost a whirl before the new book comes out in the autumn.

For more character-driven police thrillers, try Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome series, or Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne books.

Bookouture
Print/Kindle/iBook
£1.99

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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