Book review: Gallows Drop by Mari Hannah

Gallows Drop by Mari Hannah
Gallows Drop by Mari Hannah
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Stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood… Mari Hannah’s north-east cop DCI Kate Daniels is back on the beat and waging war on a vicious killer.

Polari Prize winner Hannah, a former probation officer who has turned into one of our most powerful thriller writers, is now on her sixth book in a dark and gripping police series which is currently in development with Stephen Fry’s film and TV production company, Sprout Pictures.

Hannah, whose partner is an ex-murder detective, certainly knows her stuff but it’s not just the breathtaking authenticity of the police procedural that impresses… this is an author who has become a master of plotting, characterisation, psychological suspense and the kind of close attention to detail that turns crime fiction into something very, very special.

When police are called to a lonely stretch of road deep in the Northumberland countryside, they are met with the grotesque sight of a badly beaten teenager’s body hanging from an ancient gallows. Only the day before, DCI Kate Daniels had seen the victim alive at a bustling country show where he had proved his considerable skills as a Cumberland and Westmorland wrestler.

However, Kate has had ‘a gut-full of murder’ and is due to take some annual leave with Jo Soulsby –the criminal profiler with whom Kate has been having an on-off relationship – to decide if they have a future together.

Despite her good intentions to head off with Jo, Kate is horrified when DCI James Atkins is called in to investigate as her stand-in. There is bad blood between them dating back to her early years in the force and Kate is loath to leave her team with a man whose ‘specialist subject is persecution.’

And when Kate discovers that Atkins’ teenage daughter Beth was an eyewitness to a fight involving the victim, 16-year-old Elliott Foster, the two detectives lock horns and he is taken off the case, leaving Kate back in charge and in danger of missing out on her holiday.

It is also the trigger for a vicious verbal attack on Kate, exposing a secret she has kept hidden for years and unearthing an even darker one. Shaken but undeterred, Kate sets out to solve a case that has shocked a close-knit village community.

And as suspects emerge, she uncovers a curious historical connection with a hangman, a culture of systematic bullying, a web of deceit and a deep-seated psychosis, any one of which could be motive for murder...

Kate Daniels is an irresistible star player… dedicated, loyal, obstinate and gutsy, she is driven by a care of duty to the families of her victims and a desire to see justice done wherever that may lead and however dangerous her journey to seek out the truth might be.

Hannah is a clever, gifted writer, treading a fine line between Kate’s complex and compelling private life and unravelling our intrepid detective’s multi-layered murder mysteries, all packed with intrigue, rollercoaster emotions, unpredictable plotlines and down-to-earth realism.

Set amidst the rugged, windswept flatlands and mountains of Northumberland, these vibrant, pulsating stories have won a huge following with their exciting blend of stunning scenery and the stark realities of detective work and police politics.

In Gallows Drop, Kate’s sexuality and secrets from her past come under intense scrutiny, adding a fascinating new dynamic to what is a fast-paced, addictive thriller and, in true roguish Hannah style, the jaw-dropping twist in the tail will leave readers itching to get their hands on the next instalment.

A crime writer at the top of her game…

(Macmillan, hardback, £16.99)