Macmillan | 2016, Pb | 512p | Review copy | Buy the book
At long last DCI Kate Daniels is going to put herself first. She is just a day or two away from a long period of leave and she knows just how she’s going to spend it – repairing the relationships that matter the most. But little goes rarely to plan in this job, so why should Kate be surprised when the body of a young man is found hanging from an ancient gallows? There’s something especially poignant about this case. Kate was one of many who saw this lad win a wrestling competition at a country show the day before. He was in the prime of his life. How did he end up hanging from the gallows? And who’ll look after the case when Kate’s on leave? Will she be able to let it go?
The case is destined to be a difficult one. This is a rural village community. Everyone knows one another and quite a few people witnessed the victim get caught up in a fight outside the church the night before. But what people saw just doesn’t add up and the case is about to get particularly personal for one of the detectives. Tensions build as the clues uncover a web of hidden connections and secrets. Some people have a lot to lose and Kate is one of them.
I am a huge fan of the DCI Kate Daniels series and over the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed catching up. I still have a couple to go but I wasn’t going to wait to read Gallows Drop. Normally, I save this series for when I’m on holiday in Italy or Spain – that’s how much I love these books. I save them for special places. But, with no holiday on the horizon, and with Gallows Drop about to be published, I dived in with the greatest of pleasure. The fact that I haven’t yet read the previous two novels didn’t matter at all. Some themes continue – especially Kate’s complicated yo-yo love life – but there’s no difficulty in working out what’s going on and reading this hasn’t stopped me from being able to go back and read the last two. Which is just as well because they’re pre-packed ready for my next trip.
Kate Daniels is a fantastic creation. She doesn’t always make the best of decisions and she has her faults but she is such a joy to know and, tellingly, she is much loved by her team, especially the adorable and protective DS Hank Gormley. It’s fair to say that Kate drives me mad sometimes in her relationship with Jo. Those two really need their heads banging together and Kate always seems to manage to make things even more complicated. But it’s part and parcel of who Kate is – irritating sometimes, obstinate often, but always loyal and driven to do what she can for those who suffer more than anyone else – the victims of crime.
Kate has a particularly hard time of it here. She does not get on well with the old school of male copper and the worst of his kind rears his foul head in these pages. But despite the hatred, Kate tries to do what’s right. These are three-dimensional human beings and this means complex feelings. Kate is really good at those.
The crime and mystery at the heart of Gallows Drop almost plays second fiddle to the lives and relationships of those who investigate it but nevertheless it plays a vital role and it is a sad and worrisome tale that affects so many people.
Mari Hannah writes beautifully. We benefit hugely from her depth of research and knowledge. Her love of the stunning northern countryside also shines through. It’s evoked in both descriptions and dialogue. These novels have such a strong sense of place and it is lived in by some fascinating characters, some who behave well, some who don’t, and others who try and do their best.
When you get to the end of this fantastic novel and read its final pages you will know why I am desperate for the next book in the series. Crime fiction doesn’t get much better than this.
The Silent Room