Author Mari Hannah brings her experience as a former Probation Officer as well as her writing ability to her procedurals, of which Monument to Murder is her fourth. In addition, her partner is an ex-murder detective.
So, as you would expect, this crime story is good on the detail of murder investigations. The banter between officers, the grind of collecting evidence, along with insights into the prisoner’s world.
Skeletal remains are discovered beneath the fortified walls of a castle on Northumberland’s weather-blasted coastline. DCI Kate Daniels, a no-nonsense investigator and authoritative boss if ever there was one, calls on a forensic anthropologist to help identify the remains. Soon, the bones of a second body are discovered. It turns out these belong to two girls buried five years apart.
This narrative does a duet with a second about newly widowed prison psychologist Emily McCann, who, when not dealing with her difficult teenage daughter, Rachel, finds that she figures large in the perverted fantasies of sex offender Walter Fearon, who is in her care. With only days to go before Fearon is released from prison, Emily finds her life spiralling into crisis.
The author gradually draws these two strands together and keeps the killer’s identity and motivation hidden until the last half dozen pages, and it is a 470-page paperback. This is a bit of a disappointment because, having kept the reader dangling right until the very end, the perpetrator is dealt with in a rush.
The killer ‘was sick’, is the succinct, obvious verdict offered. Other crunch moments in the mystery take place offstage – an abducted person escaping from captivity, even the final confrontation. Instead of the tension these events and fuller insights into the crime could have added to the story, it is stretched with dead ends and red herrings.
‘Do all dykes argue 24/7?’ one officer asks DCI Daniels after her latest spat with psychologist Jo Soulsby, for whom she has a passion. This is a moment that may make some readers smile, because these two characters do argue almost non-stop. It is a trait in the narrative that certain relationships and characters have no arc and don’t develop. Emily, for instance, is basically a mum hysterically on edge throughout the entire story. This may be realistic, but she makes a rather flat character to read.
Having said that, Kate Daniels is the best character in the book, holding her team together despite the strain of the investigation and her frustrated love life, administering bollockings to officers who fall short and displaying intuition in dealing with suspects and victims alike.
While the story is contrived in places – both Emily and her daughter are targeted by different predators, for example – it does feel authentic in its depiction of detectives desperately tracking down a very careful killer.
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