Ok, I know it’s unusual for me to be reviewing a crime thriller – but I’m entirely hooked on this wonderful series from Noelle Holten! It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of the fourth in the series, Dead Secret, published for kindle by One More Chapter on 23rd April, with the paperback to follow on 22nd July (available for preorder). My thanks to Sarah at Book on the Bright Side for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
When I read and reviewed the first in the series, Dead Inside (you’ll find that review here), I announced (although I SO enjoyed it!) that I might not return for the rest of the series, because I’d just found it all a bit too harrowing. But I just couldn’t resist reading the second, Dead Wrong – yes, full of randomly discovered body parts, but I really loved it (you’ll find my review here). And the cliffhanger ending meant I just had to read the third, Dead Perfect – and found it every bit as taut and compelling (and wonderfully written) as the first two (review here). So I’ve now stopped resisting – this is a series I love, and I was really looking forward to reading the next instalment…
‘Enthralling from the first page to the last. Devoured in one sitting. Noelle Holten has become one of my must-read authors’ Angela Marsons, bestselling author of the Detective Kim Stone series
Psychopaths can take root in the unlikeliest soil…
DC Maggie Jamieson crosses paths once again with Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood when a domestic violence survivor stumbles into her new refuge, unable to speak, desperate for help.
Then another case hits Maggie’s desk. A young man has been murdered, and a curious constellation of black dots has been inked onto his cheek.
That’s when DCI Hastings goes missing and Maggie uncovers a shocking connection that turns the case on its head.
Every family may hide secrets, but not every family buries them…
I’ve said before that what I particularly love about this series is the character development – but my goodness, this is also a really gripping story. At first, there seem to be disparate threads – a new arrival at Lucy’s refuge, a fairly routine murder investigation for Maggie and the team – but the disappearance of one of their top men adds a level of real complication, with links that slowly become only too clear. It’s wonderfully convoluted as the layers are peeled back, a series of discoveries and revelations (with a few nice red herrings) and it had me entirely absorbed from beginning to end. I’ll admit that I was a step ahead of the investigation as I read, but that always just makes me feel a bit smug – it was good to have my conclusions confirmed, and it didn’t spoil the story (or lessen the tension) in any way at all.
But because of my total inability to write a review of a book like this without being in danger of telling the entire story, I’m going to focus on its wonderful characters. I already loved Maggie, with her focus and determination about her work sometimes leading her to overstep the mark and push too hard for what she thinks is right – but this book has an increased focus on her personal life, and that was something I enjoyed very much. I liked her vulnerability – the tentative start of a new relationship (and one not without its complications), the emotional side particularly well handled. I also liked the support provided by Kate (now at a distance), and the glimpses of her home life with her brother and the cats.
Lucy’s story was told in the first book, and she was always a character that interested me a lot with her complex history – and the slow uncovering of new arrival Ronnie’s story brings back uncomfortable echoes of her experiences in her time with Patrick.
The police team and their relationships is always something that fascinates me, and that’s further developed in this book. Nathan’s now looking rather more comfortable in his role as “boss”, but I like the interplay between him and Maggie – Cat still has no filter (and there’s some nice humour in that), and Bethany’s still working away doing the important screen work that’s so pivotal to resolving every case. I’ve always been a bit of a fan of DI Rutherford, another really strong female character that the author draws so well, and I enjoyed the way her hard exterior cracked a little in this book, with a few more personal insights.
There’s an exceptional feeling of authenticity about everything procedural – the interactions with other agencies, the friendships leveraged and the favours called in. I liked too the rather more spiky relationship with the forensic team, a legacy from an earlier book and nicely done. And I really should mention that although I’ve read all the earlier books, and understanding the relationships and all that had happened before meant I leapt straight into the story, I think this one would be entirely readable as a standalone – but why deny yourself the pleasure of catching up?
As I did with the previous books, I raced through this one – the short chapters and the perfect pace of the storytelling make it impossible not to. And the degree of tension and anticipation kept my heart racing and the pages turning – I loved it. I said when I reviewed Dead Perfect that if all crime thrillers were reliably this good, I might read them rather more often – this book just confirmed that once more, and I recommend it very highly.
About the author
Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK – is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.