Killing For Keeps is the fifth instalment of the excellent DCI Kate Daniels series, and once again consolidates Hannah’s growing reputation at the core of the British crime genre, alongside the names of Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves and Sharon Bolton.
Two brothers from the same criminal family die within hours of each other, five miles apart: one on the edge of a Newcastle industrial estate, the other in a busy A & E department, unseen by the triage team. Both victims have suffered horrific, brutal and bloody injuries (rubs hands with ghoulish glee). As the investigation in the toerags’ deaths gathers pace, our estwhile heroine Daniels, gets drawn into some moral conundrums, which inevitably lead to her breaking of the rules. As the body count rises, Hannah transports us from Newcastle, to Scotland and then to the warmer climes of Europe, as Daniels and her intrepid sidekick DS Hank Gormley navigate the dangerous waters of this particularly testing investigation to its bloody conclusion.
Being a little disillusioned with some of the British crime thrillers over the past year, Hannah has delivered a breath of fresh air once again. Although I would hesitate to say that Killing For Keeps was as good personally as the previous book, Monument To Murder with its near perfect rendition of police procedural and location, even a slightly less good book from Hannah still steals the competition amongst her peers. As usual Hannah is spot on in terms of her forensic detail, the inner workings of a murder investigation, and the professional demands this places on Daniels and her team. Although I felt myself less engaged with the tit-for-tat killing of the brothers grim, and its consequences among the criminal fraternity, it is the allure of Hannah’s characterisation of Daniels and her cohorts that really carries the book.
Up to now most of the books have been driven by the knotty emotional entanglement of Daniels and her very off/on lover psychologist Jo Soulsby. Although this story goes some way to resolving the ups and downs of this personal relationship, what I found most engaging were the slight chinks that appeared in Daniels’ professional armour. With the distressing death of one of her unofficial informers hitting her hard, this investigation causes Daniels’ to fly beneath the radar of professional standards. We bear witness to a previously unseen side of her that makes the morality of her actions come under scrutiny, and Daniels goes a bit maverick. And I liked it. With the unfolding of the investigation, Daniels forms an unlikely respect for a member of the criminal fraternity, particularly when he saves Gormley’s skin, and it was good to see her loosen her fixed ideals as the book progressed. As usual I enjoyed the repartee between Daniels with not only her partner, Gormley, and the rest of her team but also the spiky but respectful relationship with her superior officer Superintendent Bright. And it was nice to see a little touch of Cupid’s arrow, with everyone’s love lives being placed on a more even keel…until something or someone upsets the apple-carts I suspect!
Another good addition to the series, and thanks to Hannah’s assured control of back story, this is a series you can dip into at any point. But why would you dip? Start at the beginning with The Murder Wall and give yourselves a treat. Happy reading.
(With thanks to Macmillan for the ARC)