“To stop the killer, you need to know…”
- Book: Why She Died
- Location: Berkshire
- Author: J G Roberts
Okay! This is going to be one of those subjective reviews, which really are so difficult to write, as every person takes a different journey when reading a book, which is what makes the experience so wonderful. I do need to come clean and say that I haven’t read either of the first two books in this series, so I was hoping that Why She Died would work for me as a stand alone crime thriller. Whilst there was enough of the backstory included, so that I didn’t feel left out of anything, I do nonetheless believe that I would have benefited hugely by getting to know the characters a little better, before passing judgment on them and potentially being disingenuous with my observations and comments about them. But that’s just a personal perspective and for me, this definitely works fine as a self-contained story or a one-off peek into DCI Rachel Hart’s world.
It is clear from the vast volume of books I have read in this genre, that all fictional detectives appear to carry huge amounts of personal and emotional baggage, which they often struggle to keep separate from their investigations and in this series DCI Rachel Hart, is clearly no exception. Knowing some of the details of her emotional crisis and that she has only recently returned to work, it would seem to me that she is far from ready to take on the routine trauma which by default comes with her job, and she should maybe have taken more time to rest and recover her strength and focus. She is clearly running so highly on adrenaline, that all of her colleagues, although they have every sympathy with her situation, are struggling to cope with her tempestuous mood swings and the terse way she communicates with them. All of which doesn’t make for a team working cooperatively or cohesively well together and who are constantly treading on eggshells, rather than having the free flowing exchanges of ideas and information they would obviously benefit from.
My above observations meant that the narrative and dialogue between the detectives investigating the cases, wasn’t very consistent and sometimes seemed unnecessarily stilted and formal, compared to that which either appears in other such recent novels I have read, or which happens in many television adaptations. It would have been good to witness some spontaneous interaction between them, as they all seem to be searching for a sense of purpose and belonging, so it was very difficult to assess their individual personalities and to judge which amongst them could be developed in any future books in the series. At times it was almost akin in tone to reading a classic crime thriller from several decades ago.
As for the potential suspects and victims, there were a profusion of characters all vying for a piece of the action, non of whom were particularly agreeable or likeable, all with their own agendas and motives for committing murder. The storyline also had plenty of pace and at times there was almost too much happening and too many people in the frame, to be able to come to any conclusions about potential suspects and motives. It was great for keeping me on my toes, but also caused quite a lot of confusion, as my suspect list became longer and longer until almost everyone was on it somewhere, only to be removed or change places with someone else, as yet another twist and turn happened in the plot!
What began as one scene of crime, it soon became apparent, had developed into two separate cases, with completely independent motives, which whilst not intrinsically connected, became linked in the most terrible and inhumane of ways, by the one person who was missing from my list and whom no-one would have suspected, except for the person closest to them, who missed all the signs completely, but which were very obvious with hindsight. This only further reduced my ability to connect with her and my expectations of her professional capabilities drastically. One other person had worked out who this most troubled and abhorrent of suspects was, but they had mysteriously disappeared.
The murder I came close to solving, but that was not until quite a long way into the story and even then I wasn’t too certain, after all the mis-directions. Revenge however, is a much more tricky emotion to spot and unravel and I had to be confronted by the suspect and have things partially explained to me, until I reached that ‘lightbulb’ moment! The end game then took yet another unscheduled turn, as this is revenge with an unexpected twist, before reaching that long searched for satisfactory conclusion. Maybe now, Rachel and Ruth can look forward to a more positive future and Rachel in particular can concentrate on strengthening the bond with her team, ready for their next case.
My overall rating of the book is 4 out of 5, however that is based on my own personal enjoyment and intrigue value of the storyline, which did have me on the edge of my seat a couple of times, turning the pages faster and faster until the crimes were all uncovered and solved! I do feel that in the cold light of day, 3 out of 5 would probably be a fairer assessment, if I were to base my review solely on the quality of the character defining and storyline building.
But Hey! after all, my enjoyment of the reading experience is all that really matters, so 4 it is!