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Monday 6 September 2021

‘Deep Cover’ by Leigh Russell

Published by No Exit Press,
24 August 2021.
ISBN: 978-0-85730464-3 (PB)

Thomas Hill professes himself to be a happily married man with a steady job, but his conventional lifestyle hides a guilty secret.  For some time, Hill has been routinely enjoying the company of Pansy Banks, a prostitute who goes by the name of Luscious.  The book opens on a night when his wife is away.  Hill feels emboldened to seek out Pansy and take her to the family home.  Trouble starts the moment they step inside Hill’s doorway and things then go from bad to worse.  Pansy dies and Hill must hurry to dispose of the corpse before his wife gets home.  He leaves Pansy’s broken body in woods near his home and when she is found the next day a police enquiry is launched.

During DCI Eileen Duncan’s briefing on Pansy’s suspicious death, she informs the team that DI Ian Peterson has been seconded onto a special project.  The news surprises everyone and none more so than DI Geraldine Steel who, until recently, has been in a relationship with Ian.  The couple parted in anger but still care deeply for each other.  Geraldine also learns that she is now partnered with Matthew Bailey, a newly arrived detective sergeant.  In true Steel fashion, once she is tasked with leading the enquiry, she feels duty bound to put aside her conflicted emotions and focus on what soon becomes the search for a serial killer.

Meanwhile Ian is thrust into the violent world of drug dealing.  He has accepted a post within a North London undercover police squad and must assist them team with a complex operation.  Ian’s hope is that the secondment will enable him to resolve his relationship with Geraldine as well as put the criminal gang leaders behind bars.  He quickly begins to question the wisdom of the move, though, when his new role requires him to behave in ways that go against his deepest principles.

Tension rises as the two plots pivot between York and London and the suspense is augmented by the fact that the narrative is revealed through the three distinct perspectives of Thomas, Geraldine, and Ian.  Hill believes himself to be invincible and infinitely superior to those around him.  His character presents a tantalising portrait of how quickly acts of deceit can turn into disaster.  Geraldine and Ian too are guilty of making misjudgements.  Both face enormous challenges as their respective cases unfold and they must be faced without the support their relationship had provided. 

Deep Cover is another thrilling mystery by Leigh Russell.  It is carefully researched and written with pace and perspicacity.  Her chilling description of a mind descending into chaos is set against the forensic logic of the police procedural.  As always, the prose is tightly structured, and the background has been carefully researched.  The author’s empathy for her characters encourages the same instinct within the reader and makes her writing both thought-provoking and intriguing.

This, the sixteenth in the Geraldine Steel series, remains as fresh as the first and I simply can’t wait for the next instalment.  Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Leigh Russell  studied at the University of Kent gaining a Masters degree in English and American literature. Formerly a secondary school English teacher, with the success of her Geraldine Steel series, Leigh now writes full-time. Her debut novel, Cut Short, was published in 2009 by No Exit Press in the UK, featuring detective Geraldine Steel. There are now 15 books in the series. Leigh also writes a spinoff series for Geraldine's sergeant, Ian Peterson. Of which there are three in the series. Her latest series published by Thomas and Mercer feature Lucy Hall. Leigh Russell is married with two daughters and lives in Middlesex.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

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