One thing you know to expect from a DI Helen Grace book; the first theory and suspect she comes up with will not be the killer, usually the second one isn’t either. And you believe her each time. So just when you are wondering who the killer can possibly be, the book races to its conclusion and you never guessed it though the clues are there. Down to the Woods is the eighth in the Grace series by MJ Arlidge. He is expert at twisting, turning, somersaulting the plot and part of the fun as a reader is figuring out the puzzle he has set.
In the New Forest, campers are disappearing from their tents and being chased through the isolated woods before being killed. I didn’t dwell on the gruesome bits; I prefer the puzzle part of crime novels, the answers are always with the people. Apart from PD James and Susan Hill, this is the series of crime novels I keep on reading. Why? Because Helen Grace is an unusual heroine; she is strong but vulnerable, confident yet quaking inside, spiky but desperate for companionship. For the moment that support comes from her team. The secondary story of her DS, Charlie Brooks, continues. Charlie’s daughter Jessie is having nightmares and the household is short on sleep, while Charlie’s husband Steve wants another baby. And there is a new DS, tall, dark, motorbike riding DS Hudson. Local reporter Emilia Garanita is pushing for the big story, overstepping the line, being a nuisance, endangering herself, as usual.
Just when I was beginning to think Helen was less of a livewire, running into danger without thinking first, when she does exactly that. Down to the Woods is perhaps a little less explosive than the earlier books, but this is now a mature crime series and Helen is 45. The challenge for Arlidge is to come up with stories that keep us guessing right until the end without relying totally on Helen. Female characters – Helen, Charlie and Emilia – are undoubtedly Arlidge’s strength and it will be interesting to see if DS Joseph Hudson joins the team on a permanent basis.
One thing disappointed me. More than any previous book, there seemed to be a lot of repetition of stuff the reader can work out for herself; of the ‘if this happens then that might be next’ sort of question. No need for the summarising.
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DOWN TO THE WOODS by @mjarlidge #crimefiction https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3z6 via @SandraDanby