by Angela Marsons
Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood …
Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.
But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.
As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?
A series of murders are carried out which appear to be linked to a children’s home that burned down. When a proposed dig on the site of the children’s home is vehemently opposed, D.I. Kim Stone, suspecting foul play, takes it upon herself to start the dig and is proved right when bones are uncovered.
Kim is then in a race against time to stop more grisly murders taking place and to uncover the secrets that have been buried along with the bodies. Her background of an abusive mother and subsequent life in care homes means that the case is deeply personal for her.
I enjoyed the character of D.I. Kim Stone. She is complex, not always likeable, sometimes rude and abrasive, but she has a heart and her interactions with the other members of her team; Bryant, Dawson and Stacey, felt real, with moments of humour and snappy dialogue. There is bags of room for her development in future books (of which there are already two more!). I have serious doubts as to whether she would get away with her wilful disobedience to her superiors in the real world, but suspension of disbelief is part and parcel of fiction.
I liked the fact that the other characters played their parts without taking over the story, leaving room for their further developments.
If I have a small criticism it would be that the Black Country dialect didn’t really work for me. I enjoy local dialects in books but I couldn’t get along with this one and it became a mild irritation.
For all the dark, horrific side of the story, it gives a sensitive insight into the cold, stark nature of the care system where “every person who is there to care for you is paid to care for you” and some really don’t do a very good job of it.
This is an assured debut novel with lots of twists and turns and an ending that I didn’t see coming at all. An extremely dark topic done very well.