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Friday 21 November 2014

‘Monument to Murder’ by Mari Hannah

 Published by Macmillan,
21 November 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4472-4604-6

The latest case for DCI Kate Daniels starts out as the nightmare crime: no suspects, vestigial evidence, not even names for the two bodies found on a beautiful beach on the Northumberland coast.
As Kate’s Major Incident Team pick over the scanty clues, another story unfolds a few miles away, in the wing of a local prison given over to serious offenders; psychologist Emily McCann, recently widowed and not coping well, locks horns with a young psychopath who seems to be obsessed with her.

Until over halfway into the narrative, the only connection between the two strands appears to be the now-ended relationship between Kate Daniels and Jo Soulsby, Emily’s fellow psychologist – but fret not, Mari Hannah is far too canny a storyteller to allow that situation to continue. When the two stories finally collide, the balance tips the other way and there are suddenly suspects are jumping out from every direction.

But the clues only begin to surface through a lot of hard work and the occasional bout of inspiration from Kate and her team, with a powerful sense throughout that the author has done her homework regarding procedural detail; there are even arguments with other forces about financial responsibility. A picture emerges not only of a crime with a substantial layer of pathos and poignancy, but also of a dedicated, well trained and capable group of detectives, who all spring off the page like real, rounded people with normal human emotions.

The same is true at the prison: different personalities develop among both inmates and staff, and the sense of reality underpinning the story is a strong one.

The author is also clearly very familiar indeed with the Northumberland landscape: pretty villages and remote beauty spots sit side by side with the inconvenient incident room and grim prison, and both snow and narrow roads hinder the investigation.

Plot, characters and setting are all addressed with a sure hand; Mari Hannah clearly knows her craft. In a way it’s a pity that Ann Cleeves’s Vera Stanhope has already staked her claim to the role of capable Northumberland detective; if and when she retires, Kate Daniels, strong-willed, intuitive and feisty, will prove more than competent to fill her shoes.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Mari Hannah was born in London, She now lives in a small Northumberland village with her partner, a former murder detective. Mari became a writer after her career as a Probation Officer was cut short following an assault on duty. She began using a computer because it was too painful to write with a pen. Ironically, the idea that she might one day become a writer then began to form in her head.  She tried different forms of writing before settling on prose, and spent several years scriptwriting. She then  turned her attention to the BBC, pitching a television serial based on characters in her then unfinished debut crime novel The Murder Wall. After completing the TV script, she went back to the book she had started years before but somehow never thought she’d finish.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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