Source: Purchase copy
Publication: 13 October 2022 from One More Chapter
Jeanette is the manager of a probation hostel that houses high risk offenders released on license. At 3am one morning, she receives a call telling her a resident has been murdered.Her whole team, along with the eight convicted murderers, are now all suspects in a crime no one saw committed…
6 Ripley Avenue is not a popular place with many of the residents of that august avenue. That’s because it is a house that has been turned into what we used to call a half-way house but in current terms is now called Approved Premises. It’s basically a hostel, housing men recently from prison on licence, some of them violent offenders, hoping to make a new path for themselves.
Jeanette Macey is a Senior Probation Officer. She runs 6 Ripley Avenue and sometimes she thinks it’s a thankless task. The men are often surly, she isn’t all that well paid and not all of her staff are always on the ball. There was a lot of neighbourhood hostility to the setting up of the premises two years ago and though much of the ‘nimbyism’ has died down, there’s still unhappiness in the avenue, not least from the immediately adjacent neighbours.
Helen Burgess is one of those neighbours. A pensioner, living alone, her garden is adjacent to the garden of 6 Ripley Avenue and every day she sees the men out the back, having a smoke and hanging around and it makes her feel very uncomfortable. She campaigned vigorously against the Approved Premises which is where she met Sloane Armstrong, a crime reporter always on the lookout for stories to sell into the nationals. Helen hasn’t given up hope that the decision to base the Approved Premises in Ripley Avenue can be reversed and with that aim in mind, she now volunteers in the kitchen of the house to keep an eye on the comings and goings and so that she can report any news or violations back to Sloane.
These are the three voices that we hear from, alongside the voice of one who is simply named ‘the killer’.
Danny Wells is a violent offender with substance abuse issues. He’s a high profile offender and his behaviour since his arrival at Ripley Avenue Approved Premises has given everyone cause for concern. In a chilling chapter early in the book we hear the killer’s contempt and derision for Danny and before much longer, Danny is found murdered.
Noelle Holten again uses her excellent knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system to paint an authentic and sometimes stark picture of life in the hostel. She brings to life the stresses and strains of an underfunded system and as a reader you can feel the tension between Jeanette’s very real desire to see rehabilitation work and the under-resourced way in which she is expected to deliver that.
6 Ripley Avenue is very much a ‘locked room’ murder mystery. We know there are a finite number of suspects and Noelle Holten very cleverly keeps the finger of suspicion moving from one to another. Motivation for the killing is one of the key questions and as we learn more about a number of dubious goings on in the hostel our attention moves from offender to volunteer to the workers in Ripley Avenue – and then back again.
Characterisation is strong. In particular Sloane’s own backstory brings up a lot of information about why she is so interested in the stories that might come out of Ripley Avenue. Her relationship with Helen Burgess might be based on mutual interest, but there’s also a fondness there and that speaks better of Sloane’s character than she might have expected. As the police come in to investigate the impact of the killer’s voice becomes ever more chilling and tension runs high.
Verdict: There’s plenty of tension and lots of authenticity about this stand-alone murder mystery from former Senior Probation Officer, Noelle Holten. She cleverly keeps the reader’s attention as she switches focus from suspect to suspect and the short, tightly written chapters help to keep the plot moving and the pace brisk.
Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at http://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog. Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.