Without a Trace by Mari Hannah: Rollercoaster world of one of crime fiction’s most exciting female detectives - book review -
When a plane falls from the sky between London and New York, the intrepid DCI Kate Daniels’ private and professional lives are thrown on to a perilous collision course…
Welcome back to Northumbria Police’s Murder Investigation Team and the rollercoaster world of one of crime fiction’s most exciting female detectives… a tenacious, straight-talking investigator with an appealing vulnerability and a fine line in blunt northern humour.
DCI Daniels is the creation of Polari Prize-winner Mari Hannah, a former probation officer who has made authentic police procedural, action-packed plots and spine-tingling suspense her stock in trade, thanks in no small part to her ex-murder detective partner.
It’s been three years since we last joined forces with Hannah’s tough north-east cop Kate Daniels but this dark and gripping series, which is currently in development with Stephen Fry’s film and TV production company, Sprout Pictures, takes off again in fine form for a story full of intrigue, raw emotion, and brilliant detective work.
Without a Trace, Capital Crime’s Crime Book of the Year, catches up with Kate after events in her last outing, Gallows Drop, saw the police chief’s sexuality and secrets from her past come under intense scrutiny, adding a fascinating new dynamic to her role with the murder squad.
When a plane on route from London to New York City disappears from the radar just 150 nautical miles short of JFK airport, it’s the worst nightmare for DCI Daniels.
The breaking news is dominating every TV channel, every social media platform, and every waking hour of the Metropolitan Police and US Homeland Security. But it’s a very private tragedy for Kate because on board was Jo Soulsby, the Northumbria force’s criminal profiler and the love of Kate’s life.
Now Kate is on the road, driving at breakneck speed the almost three hundred miles to the London Met’s Police Casualty Bureau to ‘sell a pack of lies’ and get access to an investigation which is well outside her jurisdiction.
Alongside Kate is her trusty second-in-command and best friend, DS Hank Gormley, who fears his boss may be about to commit ‘professional suicide’ by trying to muscle in on a disaster scenario which she has no authority to investigate.
Kate is doubly desperate to find out if Jo was on the plane because the couple had had an agonising, unresolved row which had seen Jo end their already on-off relationship and make a hasty booking for a getaway break in New York.
Ordered by her boss back in Northumbria to walk away from the crash inquiry in London, Kate can’t let it lie even though she knows she is risking her career. She has to find out what happened to that plane, even if it means going off book.
But no one is safe and what she doesn’t yet know is that some very dangerous people are watching her...
When it comes to crime writing, Hannah certainly knows her stuff but it’s not just the breathtaking authenticity of the police procedural that impresses… this is an author who has become a master of plotting, characterisation, psychological suspense, and the kind of close attention to detail that turns a mystery into something extra special.
And it’s always good to be back on the beat with Kate Daniels. Here, we find our irresistible star player at her most engagingly vulnerable, battling to hold herself – and her job – together as she desperately tries to blag her way into the Met investigation in an attempt to discover if the love of her life is dead or alive.
Dedicated, loyal, obstinate and gutsy, Kate is driven by a care of duty and a desire to see justice done wherever that may lead and however dangerous or reckless her journey to seek out the truth might be.
Fast-paced, addictive, and filled with tension-packed drama, powerful emotions and some jaw-dropping twists, Without a Trace sees Hannah at her page-turning, crime-writing best.
(Orion, paperback, £7.99)