In the first book of this new series by Jo Bannister, the highly recommended “Deadly Virtues,” the reader met Gabriel Ash, in his mid-20’s, “an intelligent, astute man who had once been highly regarded in national security circles,” a well-educated insurance investigator and later a Government analyst before the traumatic events of 4 years ago when his wife and two young boys had been taken by persons unknown, their present whereabouts a complete mystery.
The follow-up book takes place two months later, and reunites Gabriel with Hazel Best, a 26-year-old rookie cop, now on probation after the events which took place in that earlier novel, during which she had saved his life more than once. As the book opens, Gabriel is accompanying Hazel to visit her father, the gatekeeper at Byrfield estate, the lord of the manor being Lord Pete (“Peregrine”) Byrfield. Also present is David Sperrin, Hazel’s old friend and an archeologist who lives with his mother on neighboring property, who shortly embarks on an excavation on Byrfield land resulting in the discovery of what is determined to be the body of a ten-year-old child in a makeshift grave, apparently dead for over 30 years. DI Edwin Norris is the cop assigned to the ensuing investigation into the child’s murder, and the identity of the murderer. In the process we learn a lot about British aristocracy, much of it fascinating.
Of course Gabriel’s family’s whereabouts, and the question of whether they are even alive, is always in the forefront of his mind. Their disappearance during Gabriel’s investigation into African pirates’ hijacking of British arms shipments has him still continuing that investigation.
The writing is wonderful throughout, in particular the author’s descriptions: “I don’t know what Guy would have grown up to be. An entertainer, possibly. Or a politician. Something where the ability to tell barefaced lies is a major advantage.” And a shopkeeper: “an elderly woman with a froth of white hair and the apple cheeks of the terminally jovial.” As in the earlier novel, all the characters are very well-drawn, especially Gabriel, Hazel, and DI Norris, and the relationship between Hazel and Gabriel seems to be evolving into something more intimate. The suspense keeps building, right up until the very last page, which ends in a cliffhanger which makes me all the more anxious to read the next book in the series, “Desperate Measures,” due out in December, 2015 – can’t wait!