Pan | 2017 (16 November) | 435p | Review copy and bought copy | Buy the book
A DVD is sent to Northumbria Police Headquarters. A lock-up drenched in blood fills the screen while an anonymous woman’s voice coldly describes the appalling scene. There is no body. So begins the challenging first case for a new special unit led by Detective Superintendent Eloise O’Neil. Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan is the other core member of the unit but, when it becomes clear that there have been other DVDs, other blood-soaked rooms, O’Neil builds her team – it’s an unusual team, but it’s one she can trust. They all share a history.
They also share a commitment to tracking down a serial killer who appears to be playing games. The stakes are high, the victims prominent in society and yet random. They’re also scattered across the country and beyond. But, in order to crack the case, O’Neil and Ryan and their team must also look inwards, to try and heal the scars that threaten their investigation. Meanwhile the killer has an agenda of their own.
The Death Messenger follows on from The Silent Room, a superb novel that began Mari Hannah’s Matthew Ryan series. I’d definitely suggest that you read that marvellous book first because it provides such insight into the main characters and their complicated and heartfelt relationships, but, if you haven’t, you’ll find that The Death Messenger stands alone well.
As you’d expect from a Mari Hannah novel, this is a very clever mystery. The story is complex and moves along with a brisk speed. We’re placed in the midst of the case and little allowance is made for our status on the sidelines. We must pay attention. And it is absolutely fascinating. It’s also relatively gore-free. We have locations but few bodies. Instead, the novel focuses on the horrendous impact of murder on the partners and families of the victim, as well as on the investigative team.
The Death Messenger is a novel with a great deal of heart and warmth. Ryan and Eloise are fantastic characters, drawn with great depth and feeling, and their relationship is a joy to follow. Things have moved on from The Silent Room but they’re still walking on eggshells and it doesn’t help that they have Grace and Newman stirring the pot, two more characters that I’ve grown to love.
The Death Messenger is a clever novel, beautifully written and plotted, with characters I can’t get enough of. This doesn’t surprise me because Mari Hannah’s Kate Daniels’ series has just the same appeal. The Death Messenger confirms the Matthew Ryan series in my affections. Kate Daniels has a rival on her hands…