One piece of advice most wannabe authors will be given is to ‘write what you know.’ Mari Hannah’s previous work experience involved stints in the probation service, crown courts and prisons, so when this lady writes crime you can be assured she knows what she’s talking about. Her debut novel The Murder Wall kicks off a series of police procedurals featuring DCI Kate Daniels.
The Murder Wall opens with the horrific double murder of a young nun and her priest in a Northumberland church, a crime which goes unsolved and is still dogging Kate Daniels one year later when the action jumps ahead to the fatal shooting of a prominent, local businessman in a swanky dockside development in Newcastle.
Alan Stephens is a man with enemies, even within his own family and as Daniels’ team delve deeper into the case they find his grown-up sons are happy to see the back of him and his young, trophy-wife is hardly the weeping wreck you’d expect; ambivalent and dubiously alibi’d she seems just the type to shoot him in the chest. But his ex-wife is the real problem. Jo Soulsby is already known to the police. A colleague and a friend, she is also one of their best profilers and when Daniels sees the connection between Jo and the murder she is forced to make a decision which could ultimately wreck the promising career she had sacrificed so much for already.
As the case evolves another murderer is on the loose. Stalking his prey, killing with brisk efficiency and leaving prayer cards in the mouths of his victims – the same MO as in the initial double murder. Daniels is on his tail but the Stephens case is becoming increasingly complex. Hints of a conspiracy involving Daniels’ superiors muddy the waters and as the bodies begin to pile up the secrets which lie at the heart of her divided loyalties are leading to dissent within the ranks. Saying anymore would do a massive disservice to the author, but you’ll be rooting for Kate all the way through this one.
Mari Hannah has created a perfectly realised world here; the day to day slog of an investigation is realistically rendered, with a large cast of well written characters giving a sense of weight which is often missing from this type of book. Kate Daniels is destined to take her place among the top rank of fictional detectives; her drive and toughness, coupled with all too credible flaws make for an engaging heroine, something the crime genre is currently crying out for. Stylistically The Murder Wall is like the best kind of tv cop show, short chapters with alternating view points create a breakneck pace and I found myself just tearing through it.
The Murder Wall is a police procedural par excellence and one of the most assured debuts I’ve ever read. Mari Hannah is a skilled plotter with a great eye for character and a wealth of personal experience in the field to draw on; make no mistake, she is going to be huge.
This review originally appeared at Crime Fiction Lover.