The charred body of an enigmatic policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out shell of his car on the Southend sea front.
Meanwhile, a vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.
As DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team are brought in to solve the mystery of their colleague’s death, dark, dangerous secrets begin to surface. Can they solve both cases, before it’s too late?
An interesting one, this. It starts with the death of a policeman, then jumps back in time four days, leaving us with the grim knowledge of things to come. It’s a cracking opening scene. Indeed for me the strongest parts of the story were the start and end, with the middle just starting to meander a little before the plot takes hold again and delivered a pretty satisfying conclusion. The story does like to play around in its chronology too – you need to be paying close attention not only to who said or did what to who but also when!
There’s a nice subplot weaving through the book about Donna, a young girl who’s come from the care system and her friend Malc. A pair of intriguing characters, with plenty of depth and, of course, a few secrets. At times I found myself more interested in what they were up to than the central investigation into the body.
I liked Russell and Pearson as a duo. Both interesting in their own ways, and I was pleased to see that this is the first in a series featuring them. Keen to see what Mark Hardie does next. If there was any criticism to be had, it could have done with more of a sense of place – the story could have been set in any seaside town in the south of England. Regular readers of this blog will know that I do love a story which makes you *feel* the place the story inhabits, and for me, there wasn’t enough of that here. It’s a minor niggle though.
That said, Burned & Broken is a solid police procedural and an entertaining read. Worth checking out if that’s your sort of thing.
You can find Mark on twitter @MarkHardieCrime.
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