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Sunday 6 February 2022

‘Guilt Edged’ by Leigh Russell

Published by No Exit Press,
20 January 2022.
ISBN: 978-085730477-3 (PB)

 '…terror lapped in the shadows of his dreams where Death was waiting for him'

 George Gardener sets off for his usual Saturday morning bicycle ride through the woods. A few hours later, his body is discovered face down in a mound of earth.  Detective Inspectors Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson attend the scene.  There is no sign of a struggle, but a grey scarf is found near the corpse and some bruises around his nose and mouth suggest he has been suffocated.  His wife and work colleagues cannot suggest any reason why George, a happily married man who lives quietly and keeps himself to himself, might have been assaulted, let alone murdered.  The assumption is that he was subject to a random attack by a stranger. 

A few days after the post-mortem, the team get a welcome lead when the lab results from the scarf confirm that, along with traces of George’s DNA, there is evidence of DNA from another local man, Ben Foster.  Foster is duly questioned and charged with murder.  Detective Chief Inspector Eileen Duncan and her team are pleased to have wrapped up the case so quickly.  Only Geraldine expresses some doubts about the man being held in custody.  For one thing no link between Gardener and Foster can be found and Foster denies ever having met the dead man.  Secondly, the police are unable to establish any motive to explain why the prisoner might have committed the crime. 

When a witness unexpectedly comes forward and provides Foster with a credible alibi, Geraldine, the senior officer on duty, releases him.  The DCI and other colleagues in the department show their irritation with the conscientious DI who, not for the first time in her career, is made to feel like an outsider.  Geraldine’s credibility is questioned even more when a second murder is committed, and Foster disappears from the area.  Steel begins to doubt her instincts and redoubles her efforts to solve the case.

Motives and witnesses for the two murders prove unreliable and sparse.  But, with a suspect on the run and the department anxious to prevent any further killings, the investigation accelerates.  Still, Geraldine retains her inner belief in Foster’s innocence.  She and Ian Peterson have just begun sharing a home, but the case begins to put a strain on their relationship. 

Guilt Edged is the seventeenth Geraldine Steel novel.  It is a tense thriller in which the Detective Inspector puts her career on the line in the pursuit of justice.  The book explores the psychology of criminal behaviour alongside the police investigation, and the fallibility of characters on both sides of the law runs like a thread through the tightly plotted novel.  The subplots involving the personal lives of the police officers in the case add to the authenticity of the writing and create tensions of their own as the story reaches a dramatic climax.

This is another great read with a terrific twist at the end.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent gaining a Master’s 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, followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead, Fatal Act and Killer Plan, all featuring detective Geraldine Steel, and Murder Ring will be published in 2016. Leigh also writes a spinoff series for Geraldine's sergeant, Ian Peterson. Cold Sacrifice, Race to Death and Blood Axe.  Leigh recently signed a three-book deal with Thomas and Mercer for a new series featuring 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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