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Monday 16 April 2018

‘Hold My Hand’ by M J Ford

Published by Avon,
8 March 2018.  
ISBN: 978-0-00-825882-5 (PB)

Clowns are supposed to be funny, but they can be just plain scary – especially when you're seven years old and all alone on the edge of a fairground. Even more so when it turns out that the little boy with the clown has gone missing, and you're the only witness.

Thirty years after that chilling incident, Jo Masters is a detective sergeant, and when the skeleton of a small boy in unearthed on a building site the memories start flooding in. And then another little boy is abducted by a man in a clown mask...

This is where I have to issue a warning: don't start reading this book in the evening if you have an early start next morning; I guarantee you'll be unable to put it down and will continue reading, as I did, into the small hours. Despite one indication after another that it wouldn't happen, I desperately wanted the second little boy to be found safe and couldn't rest until I knew. And then the tension was ramped up even further...

Hold My Hand is M J Ford's first novel for adults, but his years of experience writing for children certainly shows. Not only is the plot constructed with a sure hand, with plenty of breath-holding moments; every narrative strand is peopled by characters who live and breathe, from troubled Jo Masters herself who is centre-stage throughout to the DCI who blows hot and cold and only makes occasional appearances. There's plenty of backstory for the leading players, providing opportunities for development in future volumes in the series that is sure to follow. Even the children feel like real children: cocky teenagers with vulnerable centres, a seven-year-old who is a fizzing ball of energy, an insecure eleven-year-old who just wants to be noticed.

The locations, too, come springing to life: a smelly cellar, a dingy pub, the leafy streets and elegant buildings of an old city all add texture and depth where it's needed. The police procedures have a ring of reality, though I detected the occasional liberty the author has taken to serve the story. And the outcome was suitably shocking, but the evidence all stacked up: when the villain was finally unmasked, I didn't know whether to be open-mouthed with astonishment or kick myself for not realizing.

This is an impressive adult debut from M J Ford. Jo Masters is a worthy addition to a growing array of feisty female cops, and I look forward to another late night when her next case comes to light.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

MJ Ford lives in the north of England with his wife, two young children and two dogs. He studied English and Classics at Oxford University before working in publishing for many years. He writes for both adults and children.

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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