COLD CASES AND MISSING CHILDREN: WAKE by Shelley Burr and THE HIDING PLACE by Simon Lelic
Cold cases and missing children are the common themes of these two forthcoming releases.
The Hiding Place (Penguin, 5 May 2022) is a good follow-up to Simon Lelic’s last novel, The Search Party, which introduced the detective pairing of DI Robin Fleet and DS Nikki Collins. Assigned to cold cases after the events in The Search Party, the pair are called into action when the body of a long dead schoolboy is discovered in an abandoned chapel crypt at Beaconsfield, an expensive and prestigious English boarding school. The body belongs to Ben Draper who went missing in 1997 after a game of ‘hide and seek’ that went wrong. Among the ‘seekers’ that day was Callum Richardson, who is now a prominent media and political celebrity, and Fleet finds himself under considerable pressure to close the case in a politically acceptable way.
Using a dual timeline and shifting point of view, Lelic alternates between Fleet’s investigation and the events back in 1997 when disaffected newcomer Ben Draper came under the spell of three older students, including the charismatic Richardson. The dual unfolding works well, and Lelic maintains a good level of interest as both storylines smartly move to their respective conclusions.
The characters are well-developed and Lelic provides revealing insights into the private lives of Fleet and Collins, without slowing the story too much. He is also very good at bringing forth the personality of Ben and his struggles to fit in. The book touches on a range of issues from loneliness to homelessness to the politics of policing and the lasting effects of childhood experiences, particularly those at boarding schools, on individuals. At its core, however, it is a good murder mystery and Lelic skilfully brings the novel to a surprising conclusion.
The present day police investigation held more interest for me than the school day flashbacks, and I enjoyed the nuanced characterisations, especially that of Fleet’s put-upon boss. Overall, The Hiding Place is a well written and entertaining novel that will not disappoint regular readers of British police mysteries.
Three and a half to four stars out of five!
The Hiding Place will be released in the United Kingdom on 5 May 2022. It will be released in Australia in August 2022.
WAKE (Hachette, 27 April 2022) by Shelley Burr is an assured first novel that shows a maturity of writing that is often missing in debut novels.
Nineteen years ago young Evelyn McCreery went missing from the bedroom she shared with her twin sister, Mina, on the family’s property on the edge of the small town of Nannine in outback New South Wales. Despite a large reward, Evelyn was never found, and Mina’s life has been defined ever since by the intense public interest in the case. Enter private investigator Lane Holland who desperately needs the still unclaimed reward money and has his own personal reasons for wanting to find out the truth about Evelyn. With Mina’s reluctant help he revisits the disappearance and another possibly related missing person case.
This is a well written and absorbing cold case crime story with a strong sense of place and a good set of characters. The various strands of the plot take a little while to set in place, but once underway it is a captivating read.
The descriptions of the harsh interior of Australia and the struggling town of Nannine are evocative and accurate, and they nicely enhance the story and help build the creepy atmosphere. The characters avoid many of the stereotypes often seen in Australian crime fiction and there is a real subtlety to them. I particularly liked how Shelley developed the character of Mina and showed her flaws and strengths.
The plotting is also confident and Shelley pulls off some good twists and turns along the way to the tense and unexpected climax.
The pacing could be brisker at times, but overall it is a very confident and entertaining first novel that will appeal to fans of Jane Harper and Chris Hammer.
Four stars out of five!
Wake is released in Australia on 27 April 2022. It is released in the United Kingdom on 9 June 2022.