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Wednesday 6 September 2023

‘Stay Buried’ by Kate Webb

Published by Quercus,
20 July 2023.
978-1-52942-127-9 (PB)

With a few notable exceptions, at least in fiction, a cold case unit is often a place a police officer is sidelined to when he or she has made a career-threatening mistake. So, it is with D I Matt Lockyer, who finds himself tucked away in a shabby office with a single detective constable to help him, after a case which could have (but didn’t) go badly wrong because of something he did. Mostly he and D C Gemma Broad are revisiting unsolved burglaries – until a phone call ups the ante more than a little.

The call is from Hedy Lambert, a woman Lockyer helped put away for murder early in his career. She always insisted she was innocent, and Lockyer was more than half inclined to believe her, even though it was he who unearthed a potential motive which strengthened the weak case against her. When improved forensic techniques throw doubt on the evidence which eventually convicted her, he and Gemma reopen the case.

As always in the best crime fiction, it’s the characters who bring the scenario to life. Kate Webb creates a whole community with a few strokes of the keyboard: elderly, ailing Professor Ferris in his rambling, shabby house; his sister, who regards herself as lady of the manor, and her self-obsessed son; the professor’s own son, back in the family home after leaving it as a teenager under mysterious circumstances. Then there’s the shady general factotum who has secrets of his own; the professor’s former research assistant, now a professor herself but a witness in the murder case fourteen years earlier; and the nosy village shopkeeper, who always saw more than most people realized. Mrs Musprat, Lockyer’s crotchety neighbour; and of course the key players: Matt Lockyer himself and D C Gemma Broad, both of them stronger than they think; and fragile, damaged Hedy Lambert, imprisoned for fourteen years for a crime she swears she did not commit.

All these and numerous others are drawn in the kind of detail that makes it easy to imagine their lives continuing off the page, against a background of equally convincing rural and village life which offers more than a passing glance at the problems farmers face and the sadness’s that haunt many lives.

All this, and a complex, well plotted account of the progress of a difficult investigation as well. Buried secrets from far longer ago than the murder case come to light, but not until the dogged pair explore several blind alleys and do battle with some personal issues along the way. One of those issues may well form the backdrop to future cases for Lockyer and Broad. If they do, I look forward to following their progress.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Kate Webb was born in 1977 and grew up in Hampshire before reading History at Durham University. She has since spent time living in London and Venice, and now lives in the countryside near Bath, UK. Stay Buried is her debut crime novel and Book 1 in the DI Lockyer series. She also writes historical fiction under the name Katherine Webb, which have included several Sunday Times Top Ten Bestsellers and been translated into 26 languages around the world.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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