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Friday 7 November 2014

‘The Winter Foundlings’ by Kate Rhodes

Published by Mulholland Books, 
14 August 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-444-73882-7

A forensic psychologist dealing with criminal psychotics has to be tough, and Alice Quentin is called on to be tougher than most when the Met ask her to assist on an enquiry into a series of child abductions and murders.

Interviewing inmates of a hospital for the criminally insane is even less easy when you’re five feet tall and baby-blonde, as Alice is – and when she finds herself playing second fiddle to an illustrious but incompetent colleague with a rhino hide and a planet-sized ego, the hurdles just keep on getting higher.

The murders are clearly meant as a tribute to a vicious serial killer who has been incarcerated in the hospital for decades. Having refused to speak to almost anyone for many years, he has now agreed to talk to Alice, and her task is to find the connection which will lead them to the murderer.
Interleaved with Alice’s first-person account of her role in the investigation is Ella, the murderer’s fourth victim, who gains his confidence and against the odds manages to escape the others’ fate. 

Any story involving child murder is grim; this one is as dark and labyrinthine as they come, peppered with grisly descriptions of life inside the hospital, and made all the more poignant by Ella’s contribution. Kate Rhodes uses her characters to infuse the darkness with light: among many others a hospital director almost as egotistical as the famous psychologist; his compassionate deputy who has a rich emotional life; a fitness trainer with hidden depths; and DCI Don Burns, a detective with too many feelings.

Alice has a life outside her demanding work, involving a pregnant friend, damaged brother and emotionally buttoned-down mother, and an unresolved relationship with her father which impacts on the case and also give her major commitment issues. It all adds up to a world the reader can believe in, which seems to have a life outside the confines of the book.

Rhodes leads the reader a merry dance through love affairs, nights at the pub and parties, woven deftly through a gruelling investigation which gives Alice and the police sleepless nights. A country village during the longest cold spell on record forms an almost tactile background, with occasional forays into vibrant city life.

The Winter Foundlings is the third  outing for Alice Quentin and the rather lovely DCI Burns. I’ll be looking for the two previous ones, and look forward to the next.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Kate Rhodes was born in London. She has a PhD in modern American literature and has taught English at British and American universities. She spent several years working in the southern states of America, first in Texas, then at a liberal arts college in Florida. Kate’s first collection of poems Reversal was published in 2005, her second collection, The Alice Trap was published in 2008. The Guardian described her poems as “pared back and fast-moving, the short lines full of an energetic lightness of touch”. Kate has been awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship, and her poems have been shortlisted and won prizes in a number of competitions including the Bridport Prize and the Forward Prize. Kate is currently writing full-time and lives in Cambridge with her husband Dave Pescod, a writer and film maker. Crossbones Yard was Kate’s first crime novel. The second novel in the Alice Quentin series, A Killing of Angels was published July 2013.

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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