Sent to me by Simon & Schuster UK in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 25/01/18
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Format: Hardback, 432pp
Summed up in a word: Suspicious
Hell Bay was an exciting concept for me. A thrilling murder-mystery on a small collection of islands in the UK with minute communities who exist as a whole. When Ben arrives back on Bryher (one of the smaller islands that makes up the Isles of Scilly) he wants to escape the clutches of the Murder Squad in London. When one of the islands inhabitants is murdered, Ben must suspect all and trust no one. Hell Bay is a captivating murder-mystery that had me guessing all the way to the stunning conclusion. Keep Kate Rhodes on your radar as her next book Ruin Beach is around the corner! Full review below.
DI Ben Kitto needs a second chance. After ten years working for the murder squad in London, a traumatic event has left him grief-stricken. He’s tried to resign from his job, but his boss has persuaded him to take three months to reconsider.
Ben plans to work in his uncle Ray’s boatyard, on the tiny Scilly island of Bryher where he was born, hoping to mend his shattered nerves. His plans go awry when the body of sixteen year old Laura Trescothick is found on the beach at Hell Bay. Her attacker must still be on the island because no ferries have sailed during a two-day storm.
Everyone on the island is under suspicion. Dark secrets are about to resurface. And the murderer could strike again at any time.
I can safely say that Hell Bay was the triumphant return to the Crime/Thriller genre that I was expecting after being away for so long. Kate Rhodes has a refreshingly enigmatic and compelling writing style that kept me guessing until the stunning conclusion. I found with a murder-mystery story that’s set on a minuscule island where all the inhabitants live and breath as one, it was bound to be worth a read and I was right. DI Ben Kitto has returned to his childhood home of Bryher (Scilly Isles off of the Cornish Coast, UK) for rest and recuperation. Shortly after his arrival there is a murder, young Laura is murdered and left at sea, and Ben offers to investigate his hometown to avoid bringing strangers and journalists ashore to tear the island apart.
Ben’s investigations slowly bring to light some of the inhabitants dark secrets and Ben struggles to remain objective in his police work. Tension on the island is at breaking point; everyone is looking to blame someone for this atrocity. Ben must look at the people he has grown up with in a new light and work out who wanted Laura dead before more people get hurt. Gossip, accusations and allegiances threaten to de-rail the investigation but Ben must hold firm to work towards the truth. Rhodes has crafted a suspicious and pernicious atmosphere on the island; there are enough twists and turns in the narrative to keep even the most seasoned thriller readers guessing. Ben soon becomes a target for being a hero; can he find the killer before he gets himself hurt?
I thought the narrative was excellent and it is paced really well. Kate Rhodes keeps her cards close and slowly ebbs out the truth behind Laura’s death as well as the reason Ben Kitto has returned to the island a defeated man. Ben has taken a 3 month break (and a dog named Shadow) from the Murder Squad in London for personal reasons and is keen to forget all about policing for a while. But he cannot stand by while the people who raised him, loved him and befriended him suffer with the death of a young member of the community. I liked Ben Kitto and I think he is going to be a great main character for this series.
Ben is a conflicted individual but he is willing to put aside his own turmoil for the good of those he cares about. I also liked his influences on up-and-coming cop Eddie and I hope Rhodes explores their partnership in later books. There are plenty of sub-plots for readers to sink into as well. Alongside the main narrative, the novel follows Rose and her search for her son (the number one suspect for the murder) and it gives the reader another angle on the grief the island is experiencing. We also find out more about Ben’s partner Clare (and the reason Ben has Shadow) as events unfold and it is an interesting additional side piece. Kate Rhodes’ writing is precise and well developed keeping the reader churning the facts around in their heads. Perfect for a Crime/Thriller novel.
The writing is great and the characters are multi-dimensional and unpredictable but it’s was the setting that really made this novel for me. I thought it was an inspired choice to have events take place on such a unique set of islands. Bryher is a character in of itself, helping or hurting its inhabitants whenever it chooses. A close nit and remote community where everyone leaves their doors unlocked and trusts one another breeds complacency and a murder shocks the community to its very core. I thought that KR utilised the setting enough for it to mean something in the novel instead of just being cosmetic. I am excited to see where on the Isles KR takes the story next.
There are plenty of dark themes included within the novel but it is not overly violent or disturbing. Themes like betrayal, suspicion, lies, depression and harm are mixed with friendship, family, honour and truth. The atmosphere on the island is fuelled with anger, distrust but also a sense of community unity. All the details and facts keep altering how the reader views each individual from their own perspective and from Ben’s view too. These are people he has known all his life and one of the people on the island was capable of taking a young innocent life; there is no time for mistakes.
Kate Rhodes is certainly a talent to watch and I can’t wait to get stuck into another one of her gripping but picturesque stories later on this year. I have already read a snippet of Ruin Beach and I can already see that KR has settled into this series perfectly. Check out Hell Bay now and get ready to invest in a stellar series.
About Kate Rhodes
Kate Rhodes is an acclaimed crime novelist and an award-winning poet. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, the writer and film-maker, Dave Pescod. She visited the Scilly Isles every year as a child which gave her the idea for this new series. She is one of the founders of the Killer Women writing group.