Source: Review copy
Publication: 7 December 2021 from Sphere
Kate Marshall’s detective agency takes off when she and her partner Tristan are hired to investigate a cold case from over a decade ago. Twelve years previously, a determined young journalist called Joanna Duncan exposed a political scandal that had major repercussions. In the fallout she disappeared without trace and was never found.
When Kate and Tristan examine the case files, they find the trail long cold, but they discover the names of two young men who also vanished at that time. As she begins to connect their last days, Kate realizes that Joanna may have been onto something far more sinister than anyone first believed: the identity of a serial killer preying on the people who few will ever miss.
But the closer Kate comes to finding the killer, the darker things become . . .
I do enjoy this series, the more so now that Kate is starting to get into her stride as a private detective. She’s by no means well off since giving up her lecturing job as a criminologist, so she’s combining running a caravan park in Devon – inherited from her AA sponsor, Myra – with her detective agency. Her colleague, Tristan also has to continue to work in the University, but both are committed to making the agency work, whatever it takes.
The pair are hired to work on a cold case by Bev Ellis, the distraught mother of a missing journalist, Joanna Duncan. Joanna’s been gone 12 years, but Bev, who knows she is more than likely dead, wants to be able to put her daughter to rest and achieve closure. Joanna’s car was found abandoned in the multi-storey car park she used daily and the reader knows from the beginning that foul play was indeed involved.
Now Bev’s partner Bill, a well off builder, has used his money and influence to get copies of the long inactive police files from the time and Joanna’s mum wants Kate to use these to find out what happened to her daughter. It’s a case that pays well – and so Kate and Tristan have no hesitation in accepting.
Bryndza’s ability to make his central characters incredibly empathetic and likeable immediately make you warm to both Kate and Tristan. His facility to draw the reader quickly into a story and to invest them with a stake in the outcome is indicative of a writer who really understands his audience. Part of the joy of this series is the interplay between Kate, her son Jake and Tristan. They are each very different personalities but they are all warm and interesting people with independent lives and you can’t help but like them. Kate and Tristan are a good team and this time Tristan contacts are very helpful in finding a way forward for the investigation.
Of course their attention first focusses on the stories that Joanna was pursuing and a few promising leads look to be full of potential, but these dissipate until a discovery made by Kate opens up a new avenue of exploration.
Robert Bryndza knows how to spin a good storyline and his mastery of the art of deception and misleading is excellent, so there are always surprises in store for his readers. I actually worked out fairly early on who was responsible, but for me the surprise and tension still existed because I did not know why and what had led to a chain of events that culminated in Joanna’s murder, but also pointed to other deaths.
Bryndza helps build tension by giving us chapters from the antagonists perspective. So we as readers know how the killing is done and what happens to each victim. This is a splendidly chilling way to help you realise the very real danger that Kate and Tristan are in, as well as upping the anteo on the urgency of stopping a terrible, brutal killer.
Bryndza doesn’t overegg Kate’s past and her addiction issues, but he allows it to hover in the background, gently reminding us both of what she has been through and also of how easy it would be for her to regress in times of stress.
The sense of place is fabulous, too with lovely coastal and rural settings all perfect for hiding bodies and of course a large patch for a thinly stretched police team who are not slow to demand that Kate hands over all her information when it seems that she has uncovered information from their files that their teams missed altogether.
Verdict: Great sense of place, rich and warm characterisation and some lovely twisty plot points all combine to make this a riveting and enthralling read. This is a great series that makes you want to race through every chapter ‘til you get to the truth.
Robert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestselling Detective Erika Foster series and the Kate Marshall series. Robert’s books have sold over 4 million copies and have been translated into 29 languages. He is British and lives in Slovakia.