All Fall Down (DI Helen Grace #9), by M.J. Arlidge

Eight stars

When I noticed a new novel by M.J. Arlidge, I could not wait to see what DI Helen Grace was doing and how she might tackle yet another ruthless killer. In a story that keeps the reader guessing throughout, Arlidge does not disappoint. When Justin Lanning receives an anonymous call stating that he has only one hour to live, he is understandably upset. His panic is only increased when his hired driver takes him on a route with which he is not familiar. After Lanning’s body is found the following day, DI Helen Grace and her team arrive at the scene. Lanning’s notoriety is not overlooked, as he was one of a number of teenage schoolchildren who escaped the clutches of Daniel King eight years earlier. King abducted them and was prepared to kill them all, when all but one was able to escape and make it to the authorities. King torched his rural farm and fled, leaving one of the children inside to die. Grace must now fight against the publicity, as well as a recently released memoir by one of the others, Maxine Pryce. As Grace tries to piece it all together, she cannot help but wonder if there is a connection between Lanning’s murder and Pryce’s new book, which is exacerbated by an outspoken journalist looking for her next scoop. After a second of the schoolchildren is murdered, Grace cannot help but see the pattern clearly. All hands on deck to sift through any possible clues as to where Daniel King might have gone. While all this is taking place, some with Grace’s team take risks to follow leads and track down people of interest, so much so that the police brass must wonder whether DI Helen Grace is in over her head. A decent copper, but her leadership skills are surely in question. After a twist in the case takes the team down a different rabbit hole, Grace cannot help but wonder if their tunnel vision all along might have derailed the investigation at the worst possible time. M.J. Arlidge does a masterful job of spinning a complex web of events and takes the reader along. Recommended to those who love British police procedurals, as well as those who have come to love Helen Grace and all her antics.

When I discovered this series, I could not get enough. M.J. Arlidge writes in such a way that there is no shaking the lure of the stories or the banter between the characters. Throughout the nine novels in the collection, DI Helen Grace has shown her grit and determination, never one to shy away from things that many would deep out of their comfort zone. While her choices have sometimes been dicey, she is always focussed on her job and helping those in need. The rest of the group have all evolved in their own way over the years, some coming and going, but always developing throughout the experience. Arlidge does well in not creating a stagnant collection of characters whose sole goal is to support Helen Grace, as she pushes the envelope and tries to do what she feels is best. The story was well crafted and pulls the reader in from the opening pages. With great plot development that builds with each chapter, the reader wants to know a little more. Short chapters that clip along, as well as segments of Maxine Pryce’s memoir interspersed throughout, help give the reader the impetus to forge ahead and devour the book in short order, which I have done. A perfect addition to the series that will keep readers begging for more soon.

Kudos, Mr. Arlidge, for another winner. I cannot say enough about your writing or this series. Please keep them coming!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Down to the Woods (DI Helen Grace #8), by M. J. Arlidge

Eight stars

M.J. Arlidge is back with his eighth novel in the Helen Grace series, adding a new layer of thrills in this unique piece. While DI Helen Grace is still trying to piece her life back together after a year of significant changes, she learns that there is a new addition to her Major Incident Team (MIT). DS Joseph Hudson has a great deal of police work under his belt, all across England, but has finally decided on a transfer to Southampton. The team is soon called out to a campsite, where a man has disappeared without a trace. Scouring the surrounding forested area, DI Grace and her team find him hanging from a tree, his organs dangling and embedded with crossbow bolts. Could the killer still be lurking in the forest? This begins a thorough exploration, where one member falls victim to a man who chooses to live way off the grid. It is only pure luck that has DI Grace stumble upon her teammate, saving her from another tragic incident. When a second victim goes missing and is found in the same state, DI Grace knows that this killer has a message and will stop at nothing. Now it’s time to determine if these are random kills or whether there is a connection, as yet unseen. While the MIT works their magic, journalist Emilia Garanita is back to find the scoop of her life. Her past run-ins with DI Grace do not deter her from using her powers of persuasion to get the story to ensure the public is aware of what’s going on. As the case heats up, both DI Grace and Emilia must come to terms with potential changes in their personal lives, both of which could have a significant bearing on the case. Arlidge does it again with a thrilling piece that will have series readers talking. Those who have yet to discover this series ought to take this as a strong recommendation. Do not let their length become a deterrent, as it is jam packed with highly entertaining thrills.

I have long been a fan of M.J. Arlidge and his writing, which has kept me up well into the night. He never seems at a loss for twists in the stories or series to keep the reader captivated, while pushing DI Helen Grace to her limits. It is this unpredictability that keeps the stories from getting stale and allows the series to grow effectively. Helen Grace has been through much in the series and this continues with this novel, in which she finds herself at a crossroads, seeking to better herself while also being highly introspective. She has seen loss and chooses to steer clear of it, though her current position makes that all but impossible. With a strong crew around her as part of the MIT, Grace and her cohort are always interacting on a professional level, with bits of personal aside to keep the subplots moving together effectively. The introduction of DI Joseph Hudson may prove to be an interesting new angle that series fans can chase, as he brings something new and exciting to the game. He, along with the many of the other supporting characters, prove effective in keeping the story intense and force the reader to wonder where things are headed. This has always been a wonderful aspect to Arlidge’s writing, as the characters enrich the story in ways that might not have been predicted. The story is great and, as long as the reader is not seeking anything overly deep, is perfect to push through in a few sittings. Arlidge uses an effective short chapter system that keeps the reader hanging and seeking “a little more”, which turns into late-night reading binges. The book has just what I am looking for and I cannot wait for the next instalment, which is sure to have just as many enticements.

Kudos, Mr. Arlidge, for another winner. Series fans will surely not be disappointed and I can only hope others will commence this series sooner than later.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons