“Four A.M. on a wet stretch of the A1 and a driver skids out of control. Quick on the scene, Senior Investigating Officer Kate Daniels and partner DC Hank Gormley are presented with a horrifying display of carnage and mayhem that quickly becomes one of the worst road-traffic accidents in Northumberland’s history. But as the casualties mount up, they soon realise that not all of the deaths were as a result of the accident…
On the other side of town a house goes up in flames, and its two inhabitants become charred corpses. This incident is seemingly unconnected with the traffic accident. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not what it seems, and Kate and her colleagues are always one step behind a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to get what they want”
“Deadly Deceit” is the third novel in a series featuring DCI Kate Daniels penned by Northumberland based author Mari Hannah, a former probation officer whose partner is a former murder detective.
Not having read any of Hannah’s work previously, I decided to pick this one out at when browsing the shelves at the local library based on the above synopsis, which I felt was unusual enough to stand out from the crowd in terms of crime thrillers.
Set during the 2010 football World Cup, the novel opens at 12.45 A.M. in the morning with someone setting fire to a house in the backstreets of Newcastle’s West End, whilst the neighbouring residents are sleeping off the effects of the street party they’d had for the first England match of the tournament.
The resulting inferno claimed the lives of the two occupants of the house at the time, so DCI Daniels and DC Gormley are called to the scene. En route, however, they get caught up in the aftermath of a serious traffic accident that occurred at 4 A.M. The scenes of carnage on the A1 are very well described – almost too well to be honest – and make uncomfortable reading.
With a murder investigation under way as a result of the arson attack, as well as a separate investigation into the road accident, matters are hugely complicated for Daniels are her team when the pathologist discovers that one of the road accident victims died, not as a result of the crash, but having been murdered at the scene.
Daniels is that fairly rare thing in crime fiction – a murder detective without the baggage of a major character flaw. She isn’t haunted by the death of someone close, isn’t alcoholic, clinically depressed, have money problems, etc. Some might argue that her conflict over whether to be open about her homosexuality and risk missing out on career progression is baggage, but it’s pretty minor compared to so may literary detectives it seems.
There are multiple theories and potential suspects at play here – a young woman living opposite the burnt out house with an opportunistic eye, an ex-wife with a dodgy alibi, an old man living on the same street, a seemingly anonymous redhead woman with ambitions of her own, not to mention a PC with something to hide. All these different strands are cleverly brought together bit by bit to reveal the cold-hearted killer who is determined to get what they want, regardless of the cost.
There were a few places where the writing didn’t seem to flow quite as well as it might, where perhaps a different choice of phrase or words would have worked better, but that really is a minor criticism. The plot was very well thought out and delivered, and I enjoyed this book very much…