This is a new series by Kate Rhodes featuring DI Ben Kitt who is visiting his home, Bryher, one of the smallest of the Scilly Isles. The title of the book is taken from the name of an Atlantic facing cove on the island named Hell Bay. In the 18th and 19th centuries this was apparently a notorious spot for shipwrecks caught on the rocks at this point.
Living on an island myself it is no surprise that I have a fondness for books set on them and Bryher is the ultimate in island destinations, very small populated by a small community who like to think everyone knows everything about everyone, how could it be that a teenage girl ends up dead with no-one seeing anything untoward? Ah small town settings or islands so few suspects and no chance that anyone had left the island by boat by the time the murder was discovered. How hard can finding the perpetrator be?
Meanwhile we are aware that DI Kitt is on extended leave from the Metropolitan police but the reasons why aren’t revealed for a while. All he has for company as he lives in his deceased mother’s house is a dog named Shadow that he doesn’t seem overly keen on. But the island is home and he has friends and family in the form of Ray, a boatyard owner so he uses the skills he learnt as a young boy to lend a hand to building a boat. But as soon as it becomes obvious that the local police force aren’t used to dealing with murder he offers his services, after all having worked on the Murder Squad for a decade he has the requisite skills.
Laura Trescothick’s death changes life on the island immediately with the locals scared by the knowledge that there is a killer in their midst. After all this is somewhere where doors are left unlocked, the local shop provides food for one of the residents in exchange for honey and herbs and the pub’s landlady takes it upon herself to serve the returned policeman, also her godson, Cranberry juice when she feels this will benefit his health more than the alcohol he requested. One of the advantages of being an island though is that the journalists can be kept at bay, essentially no-one can leave or come to the island until the perpetrator is found, handcuffed and carted off, by boat to the nearest island with some cells, St Mary.
The characters are complex, yes all of them. We have an American artist, a smallholder, a rich businessman intent on owning all available property on the island and a hotel proprietor who still longs to be a singer. There is also a young bereaved woman who has moved to the island for the peace and quiet but who holds her secrets close to her chest, so you see there are many fascinating people to get to know as we begin to understand their stories.
This is a brilliantly multi-layered story that gets better and better as the story unfolds. This is a brilliant read for those who enjoy their crime fiction to be measured rather than frantic and like putting the pieces of the puzzle together for themselves. The superb plotting combined with the often bleak island setting and the complicated DI Ben Kitto made for rewarding reading.
I’d like to thank the publishers Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read an advance copy of Hell Bay, this unbiased review is my thanks to them. The hardback and eBook versions of this book was published on 25 January 2018 however if you want to wait for the paperback is will be published on 3 May 2018. I’m also delighted to confirm that it appears that DI Ben Kitto will be back in another book in this series called Ruin Beach, hopefully fairly soon as there was an excerpt at the back of this ARC!