Two debut thrillers have arrived at Schloss Random in the last week and I have enjoyed both of them very much, one set in London, the other in Los Angeles.
First one is Cross Bones Yard by Kate Rhodes. Our heroine is Alice Quentin, a psychologist who has problems of her own after suffering an abusive childhood when she and her brother suffered at the hands of their father and had to watch their mother being regularly beaten. Hiding in a cupboard in a desperate bid to avoid him she is now a troubled adult who suffers from claustrophobia and is incapable of forming long lasting relationships. So we have a troubled protagonist which seems to be a given for crime and detective thrillers and the writing and story has to be good to overcome a feeling of deja vu.
And it is. Sharp narrative and good plotting. Alice is a loner and one night out on her regular run she discovers a body on waste ground at Crossbones Yard, an area where prostitutes used to be buried. The wounds are similar to those inflicted on the victims of Ray and Marie Benson (shades of the Wests here) who killed thirteen women before they were caught. Alice is asked to interview Marie Benson to see if they can found out who is the copy cat killer. The bodies begin to mount up and Alice has to go into hiding as threatening letters are sent to her, somebody tries to break into her apartment and it is clear her life is in danger.
In charge of the investigation is D I Alvarez, a widower, dark and brooding and grieving for his wife. "The bad tempered detective who had given me a lift home appeared in the doorway. ...he looked different by daylight. His black hair and pale skin made him look exotic, Middle Eastern maybe, starved of sunshine for much too long. There was still no indication that he knew how to smile". He and Alice are attracted to each other and a relationship develops though both of them try to fight it and Alice is fresh out of breaking up with her previous boyfriend, Sean, a surgeon who is now exhibiting worrying signs of anger and resentment.
A tense, exciting ending when Alice finds herself abducted and a final twist I did not foresee at all. I hope this is to be a series featuring this character as I found this an exciting pacy thriller by Kate Rhodes and look forward to the second.
Guilt by Association - Marcia Clark. I gather that the author is a former LA Deputy District Attorney, as is her heroine Rachel Knight, and was the lead prosecutor in the OJ Simpson murder case so she certainly knows her onions and has produced a snappy, pacy thriller which zapped along, complete with witty one liners and sassy dialogue.
Rachel is another survivor with baggage to carry. In this case, it is the disappearance of her younger sister many years ago for which she blames herself. As with Alice, she has difficulty in maintaining a long term relationship and to compensate buries herself in her work.
Her trusted and idealistic colleague, Jake, is found dead beside the body of a murdered teenage male prostitute and it appears as a murder/suicide. Rachel does not believe this can possibly be the truth and sets about trying to prove the FBI wrong. She is also dealing with a rape case of the daughter of a wealthy doctor who is applying pressure on Rachel's boss for a quick solution and whose re-election he is supporting.
Rachel has two good friends, Toni who works with her in her office and Bailey, a police detective and this trio provide the book with warmth and humour as the three support each other along the way. Bailey works for the Crime Unit in the LAPD and my first thought was that he must know Harry Bosch and then, no Elaine, wrong books...
Lots of twists and turns again and dealings with the seamy side of LA and, as with Alice in the previous book, Rachel finds herself in danger and being shot at and then kidnapped. Also, as with Alice, there is a rather dashing and glamorous hero eager to get to know her better, in this case Lieutenant Graden Hales "six feet tall, on the lean side but tastefully muscled under his blue unfiorm, his dark blon hair just long enough to comb. HIs eyes were a gold flecked hazel and he had wide, pronounced cheekbones, a strong nose and a generous mouth". Mmmmm, nice.
As the story progresses it gradually becomes clear that the two cases are linked but how to prove it?
Thoroughly enjoyed this one as well. Two good debut thrillers whose authors will go on my list of Those to Look Out For.