When skeletal remains are found beneath the fortified walls of an ancient castle on Northumberland’s rugged coastline, DCI Kate Daniels calls on a forensic anthropologist to help identify the corpse. Meanwhile, newly widowed prison psychologist Emily McCann finds herself drawn into the fantasy of convicted sex offender, Walter Fearon. As his mind games become more and more intense, is it possible that Daniels’ case has something to do with his murderous past? With his release imminent, what exactly does he have in mind for Emily? As Daniels encounters dead end after dead end and the body count rises, it soon becomes apparent that someone is hiding more than one deadly secret…

A series that is going from strength to strength continues apace with Monument To Murder, the fourth book of Mari Hannah’s police procedurals featuring DCI Kate Daniels and for my money this is the best of the four so far…

Opening with the discovery of two bodies in a cave on a windswept beach on the Northumberland coast, Daniels and her team find themselves isolated geographically and meteorologically  from the comfortable confines of their Newcastle base. As the weather closes in and the initially baffling investigation causes personal and professional issues for Kate and her team, Hannah keeps the reader in suspense consistently throughout. Add into the mix a connecting story of a female psychologist, Emily McCann, recently widowed, and finding herself receiving the unwelcome attentions of a twisted sex offender at the prison where she works, the two plotlines connect and flow in perfect synergy, which again adds to the overall enjoyment of the book.

Hannah’s writing exhibits its strength in predominantly two areas for me as a reader. First and foremost her characterisation of her main protagonist Daniels strikes a chord with the reader as she balances the demands of her job, the leadership of the team of police officers she oversees, and her unerring professionalism and empathy to those who find themselves the victims of crime. Admittedly, her personal life is still a little complicated in the wake of the break-up of her relationship, and the vestiges of attraction that ensure that sparks that still fly between herself and Jo, which adds to the emotional and almost personal feel of the book. Likewise, I liked the characterisation of Emily McCann, and thought that Hannah captured perfectly the feelings of despair after a personal bereavement and her journey back to life. McCann’s sadness is further compounded due to her fractured relationship with her daughter, and the very real demands of her employment in an overly masculine workplace- oh- and the positively weird attentions of the brilliantly creepy Walter Fearon.

The second stand out aspect for me personally of Hannah’s work, is the pitch perfect depiction of location, whether it be Newcastle- where Daniels’ team is normally based- or in this book, the wild and desolate beauty of the Northumberland coast, where the bodies are discovered. This is a part of the UK I am very familiar with, and as Daniels and her team attend the crime scene I could remember the feel of the biting wind, and hear and smell the pounding sea along this barren shore, through Hannah’s painstakingly accurate description of one of the most beautiful coastlines in Britain. The discovery of the bodies on this barren stretch of beach in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle and in sight of Holy Island, is a gem of a location for a crime scene, fuelling the very sinister feel of the whole investigation, and adding to the overall enjoyment of this thoroughly enthralling book. A book not to be missed.

Mari Hannah was born in London and moved north as a child. Sponsored by the Home Office, she graduated from Teesside University before becoming a Probation Officer, a career cut short when she was injured while on duty. Thereafter, she spent several years working as a film/television scriptwriter. During that time she created and developed a number of projects, most notably a feature length film and the pilot episode of a crime series for television based on the characters in her book, the latter as part of a BBC drama development scheme. She lives in Northumberland with her partner, an ex-murder detective. In 2010, she won the Northern Writers’ Award. Monument to Murder is her fourth novel: www.marihannah.com/

(With thanks to Macmillan for the ARC)

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