The Witness (DI Ray Mason #1), by Simon Kernick

Eight stars

Having read some of Simon Kernick’s recent work involving DI Ray Mason, I wanted to go back to where the first feature-length novel started. After a violent home invasion leaves Anil Rahman and his wife dead, only one witness survives. Having cowered under the bed during the attack, Jane Kinnear has a fragmented story to tell the police. Kinnear recounts how Anil was asked about a terrorist attack that was in the works and vaguely recollects that the killer was white. Other than that, nothing else of significance has occurred to Kinnear while she convalesces. With the killer still on the loose, Kinnear is transported to a safe house for the time being, kept under constant watch. Acting on the information that Kinnear remembers, and with a potential terror cell plotting an attack, DI Ray Mason is called in to help with the larger investigation. This includes trying to find leads on Anil Rahman’s murder, an informant for MI5. An experienced Counter-Terrorism agent, Mason has his eye on a specific cell that’s been chattering within the United Kingdom. However, as he and his partner approach them for answers, no one seems to have anything useful. However, Mason has come to realise that sometimes you need to push a little harder, only to discover a plot that could have brought the country to its knees. Mason remains baffled as to how Anil Rahman might have known anything beforehand, based on the narrative Kinnear has offered police while situated in her safe house. Throughout the narrative, Jane Kinnear reveals more about a sordid past in South Africa and the United States, which thickens the plot, as she has come face to face with some unsavoury characters. When the killers reach out to Mason and demand to know where the safe house is located, the case takes on a new level of concern, with Kinnear a potential new target. Rushing to piece it all together, Mason must fight against the clock and the fact that he has blood all over his hands in his latest pursuit for justice. A wonderful piece by Simon Kernick, who shows that he is able to entertain and keep the reader flipping pages well into the night. Recommended for those who love a good police procedural with a few poignant twists.

As I mentioned before, I discovered Kernick quite by accident and was drawn into his Ray Mason character from the start. When I realised that there was an earlier novel, before the Bone Fields, I knew I would have to find it so that I might better understand Mason and what made him tick. Mason’s character is not only thoroughly captivating, but the backstory on offer is rich with foreboding throughout the present narrative. A family life that would have left most anyone jaded, Mason fought off all those issues to become a stellar member of the police, fighting terrorism at home and abroad. Some of the other characters prove rich additions to the story, particularly as Kernick offers three perspectives in alternating chapters throughout the piece. It all enriches the experience a great deal and keeps the reader juggling information. The story itself was top-notch, with twists and information delivered to the reader at key moments. While it was apparent that something was amiss, until all the pieces fell into place, the reader was likely left guessing. With this Ray Mason foundation, I do hope to read more by Kernick, especially since it has come highly recommended.

Kudos, Mr. Kernick, for another wonderful story. I hope others come upon your novels and find a place for them on their ‘TBR’ shelves.

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

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The Hanged Man (The Bone Field #2), by Simon Kernick

Seven stars

Simon Kernick is back with another thriller set amid the bodies of The Bone Field, where readers saw DI Ray Mason and PI Tina Boyd work together to discover the horrible collection of unidentified bones. Still baffled by their findings, Mason and his partner are called to a rural home, where a woman lies dead and a half-penned suicide note leads them to believe that her husband, Hugh Manning, might have decided to stay alive a while longer. The deeper Mason digs, the clearer the story. Manning might have been visited by others seeking to silence him once and for all. For what, no one is yet sure. However, when the first of the bones is attributed to a woman who was presumed missing, the case opens wide and Mason soon learns that Manning may be the key to the entire Bone Field case. With a ruthless gang looking for Manning, it will only be a matter of time before the case goes cold again, forcing Mason to take matters into his own hands. With the help of his current girlfriend, PI Tina Boyd, Mason pushes not only to protect Manning, but also to bring the killers to justice and identify all the victims in short order. Trouble is, the criminal element rarely play by the rules. Kernick does well with this sequel and keeps the reader enthralled until the final pages as the mystery developed throughout. Those familiar with Kernick’s work and fans of darker police procedurals will likely enjoy this piece.

I discovered Kernick last year when the debut in this series crossed my path. I remember being interested, though was not sure how I felt about the story. I decided to give this one a chance to see if some of the loose threads might be tied off and the level of mystery heightened. I am pleased I took the gamble, though there were times I felt things took a while to gather momentum. Kernick’s interesting plots leave me feeling that I will try some more of his books in the near future. DI Ray Mason is an interesting character, having invested much of his time in police work, but now tied to Tina Boyd, who has both sobered him and kept him always looking behind his back. While he is still reckless at times, he also loves to get to the heart of the matter in a sensible way, hoping to stay alive a while longer. Still, he struggles with a relationship and being close to someone else. Boyd, for her part, seems to feel the same (and I will admit I have not ventured into her series that Kernick has padded with numerous novels). The cast of secondary characters prove believable and help push the story along, though I did not find any of them shone enough to jump off the page. The story, veiled in the Bone Field mystery, was decent and showed just how jaded some in the criminal world tend to be and what lengths they will go to get what is needed. Filled with interesting tidbits that trace back decades, Kernick has done well here and keeps the reader wondering, which is the sign of a well-crafted novel.

Kudos, Mr. Kernick, for creating this timely sequel, as fans sink their teeth into this new series, which has much potential.

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

The Bone Field (The Bone Field Series #1), by Simon Kernick

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Simon Kernick, and Random House UK for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Bringing his Ray Mason character back for a new round of police adventures, Simon Kernick has a recipe for success with the plot of this novel. During a holiday in 1990, a young woman’s body goes missing in Thailand, never to be found. With nothing on which to go, life continues for everyone, including the seemingly distraught Henry Forbes, boyfriend to the victim. Twenty-six years later, Forbes has information about his missing girlfriend and reaches out to DI Ray Mason, citing that the body is in England and the killer is part of a large group that have many sinister plans. While Mason and Forbes are meeting on the sly, a group attacks the house and leaves Forbes dead, with Mason only just able to escape. His superiors are furious but also baffled when they discover the body, as well as that from another cold-case from around the same time. DI Mason is put in touch with a private investigator, Tina Boyd, who was also contacted by Forbes, and they begin piecing together what might have happened and who could be behind the murder decades ago, as well as the recent attack and murder of Forbes. Mason remembers an occult symbol on Forbes’ arm and seeks to determine if it is a solid clue. Just as the authorities are honing in on a viable suspect, Mason makes an error that has fatal consequences, which has him suspended. Refusing to give up, Mason works with PI Boyd to trace the events of Thailand and before to determine who might be trying to exact revenge all these years later. What they discover shakes them to the core and leaves the door open for scores of other potential victims. Kernick offers readers a powerful and well-paced story that could flourish into an intriguing series, should the author desire.

This is my first time reading anything by Simon Kernick and I found it highly entertaining. While I might usually read a series in order (meaning I might have secured and read the first Ray Mason novel to get sufficient context), I did not feel lost or out of place by entering at this stage. Kernick develops a few key characters in an effective manner, particularly his protagonist. Mason is a complex police officer, whose past on the Force has been anything but smooth sailing. Added to that, his traumatic childhood, which helps coax out certain dramatic portion of the narrative, as well as allowing the reader to forge an instant connection. The premise of the story is interesting as well, though it was not as ‘captivating’ as some of the dust jacket narratives might have led me to hope. Murders, especially cold cases, can have a wonderfully complex nature, leaving the detective to pull at any strings and chase many paths, some of which lead nowhere. While I was not up late into the night, wondering what could be waiting in the next chapter, Kernick has developed a strong foundation, should Mason and PI Boyd return for another instalment. I will keep an eye out for it, in hopes that the impact is as effective. 

Kudos, Mr. Kernick for this entertaining piece of writing. I see you have a lot of other books in your collection, which might be something for me to explore later on this year.