Today a British thriller that doesn’t take place in one of the big cities, but funnily enough it’s in an area where I spent some time working, a wonderful part of the country, and I love Durham Cathedral…
The Taken. DI Erica Martin Book 2 by Alice Clark-Platts.
In a Durham boarding house at dawn, Pastor Tristan Snow is murdered while he prays. Detective Inspector Erica Martin’s investigation encounters a host of suspects all staying in the boarding house. Violet Snow, his daughter, who seems unsurprised by her father’s murder. Sera Snow, his inscrutable wife. Her sister, Antonia, who was closer to the Pastor than anyone yet knows. And Fraser McKenzie, Snow’s manager and best friend, who has his own dark secrets to hide. DI Martin soon learns that this is a case in which nothing is what it seems, and no-one is innocent…
A tense and powerful police procedural set in the city of Durham where a murdered preacher may be more monstrous than his own killer.
There’s the lost.
There’s the missing.
And there’s the taken.
She asked me once if we had any secrets, and I shook my head.
‘No secrets between us,’ she said.
‘No,’ I answered. ‘Never ever.’
In a Durham hotel at dawn, celebrated preacher Tristan Snow is murdered as he prays. None of the other guests – not even his daughter, his wife, or her sister – saw or heard anything.
But then again, they all had a motive for murder.
Detective Inspector Erica Martin is confronted by secrets and lies, lost in a case where nothing is what it seems.
With no answers, DI Martin is consumed by questions: Is anyone in this family innocent? When the victim might have been a monster – is there such a thing as justice? And does anyone deserve to die?
Praise for Alice Clark-Platts:
‘Had me on the edge of my sun lounger. Excellent plotting and a genuinely unguessable resolution to the mystery’
‘Grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t let go. A compelling read, beautifully written … A tense, captivating tale, brilliantly told’
‘A gripping, highly charged thriller’
‘A brilliantly plotted and utterly gripping thriller’
‘Superb … A very assured page-turning storm I read in one sitting’
‘Intriguing and sinister with masterful plotting and tension’
Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I voluntarily agreed to review.
Although this is the second novel in the DI Erica Martin’s series and I haven’t read the previous one, I did not find this detracted from my ability to enjoy the novel.
The story, set for the most part in Durham, in the North East of the UK, follows DI Erica Martin’s team as they investigate a bizarre death, that of a somewhat special preacher cum TV celebrity. The novel is narrated from a variety of points of view, mostly in the third person, although there are also parts in italics that at first, we don’t know who they belong to or whom they address (they seem to be a letter of some sort). Although Martin’s point of view dominates the action, we also have the points of view of other members of her team, and other characters, including the victim and the many suspects. In my opinion there is clear differentiation between the different points of view that helps the reader to not get confused, and each segment is clearly separated, so although I know some readers don’t appreciate head-hoping, due to the complexity of the case and the way the investigation develops, the change of points of view serves the book well.
Martin is a capable woman, also blessed (and cursed) with a strong intuition, but somewhat distracted by her impending divorce and her burgeoning relationship with her superior, Sam Butterworth. She’s a good boss, understands her team and has a good relationship with them, and is sympathetic and has her heart in the right place. Although we get to know a bit less about the other members of her team, Jones is also a reliable and likeable character (and high up in Martin’s esteem) and it’s a breath of fresh air to have a police team where everybody seems intent on doing the best job they can and there’s no corruption or shady motives. It’s true that Martin’s capacity for empathy and her reaction to the complications and the revelations of the case affect her personally, but, at least for me, that’s a bonus rather than a weakness.
The family of reverend Snow (although his church sounds more like a cult than a benign church) and those close to him hide many secrets, and the more layers that are peeled away, the worse things get. I read one of the reviewers commenting the Snows are a dysfunctional family. It’s possible there might be some more dysfunctional than this one, but it’s pretty high up on the ranking. If what we learn from the church’s functioning is bizarre and scary, in some ways this pales in comparison to the intricacies of the family relationships.
The plot is carefully crafted, with red herrings and many suspects that are highlighted and then dismissed, and although it might be possible to have some suspicions, things aren’t as clear-cut as most readers might suspect at first. I don’t think thriller and mystery readers will be disappointed with the plotting side of the story.
Although there are some violent scenes and descriptions of wounds and injuries, they are not extremely graphic. On the other hand, some of the topics of the book might be distressing for readers (as there is violence against children and women), and the bizarre behaviours and states of mind (that merit quite an in-depth psychological discussion) make it a hard book to read and one that will cause much discussion.
The writing style is easy to follow, descriptive enough to make the different characters believable, with changes in rhythm (not always frenetic, but it flows and ebbs with some contemplative and precious moments too), and very well chosen quotes from Euripides’s Medea.
A good novel for those looking for a British police procedural book, well-crafted, with a complex plot, likeable characters that also encompasses challenging topics. I for sure wouldn’t mind reading more of Erica Martin’s cases.
Thanks to NetGalley, to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and do like, share, comment, and CLICK! And Merry Xmas!