Orion | 2018 (22 March) | 406p | Review copy | Buy the book
When her sister Kat persuaded Alex to come away with her for a few days to Majorca, Alex was ready to be convinced it would be a good idea. She hated being away from her son Daniel but at least it would give her the chance to do some serious thinking about her relationship with her husband (and Daniel’s stepfather) Tim. Things haven’t been so good lately but, through missing Tim, Alex comes to realise how much she loves him. She flies home full of happy expectations but these are crushed when she is met at passport control by the police. Tim has reported Daniel missing. The nanny Justine was supposed to pick Daniel up from sports after school but she received a message from Tim to say that he would pick Daniel up instead. But Tim insists he didn’t send the message. And now Daniel is gone.
DI David Stone is new to Northumberland. He left the Metropolitan Police under something of a cloud and headed north, losing a rank in the process. DS Frankie Oliver on the other hand is firmly established, the third generation to police Northumberland, she’s warmly liked, has a mischievous twinkle in her eye, but she too has her ghosts. It’s Frankie’s instinct that persuades Stone to take the missing child report seriously. This is the first joint case for Stone and Oliver. Both have much to prove but the case is about to take a turn that nobody could have expected.
I am such a huge fan of Mari Hannah. Her two series featuring firstly Kate Daniels and secondly Matthew Ryan are firm favourites of mine (I have a tradition of taking the Kate Daniels books on holiday) and it was good news indeed to hear that a new book was on the way, featuring new detectives but set in this most stunning part of the world that Mari Hannah brings to life so beautifully.
A potential difficulty here is that Mari Hannah has established characters that so many of us love deeply and it’s not that easy for us to leave them behind and move on, especially when there have been some explosive cliffhangers along the way. We’ve done it before when Matthew Ryan came along but it wasn’t long before he won me over. Stone and Oliver have two hard acts to follow but I’m pleased to say that they’re given here a very promising start. It takes time to warm to Stone. He’s a man with too much hidden inside. It’s difficult to break through the barriers, and nobody knows that better than Frankie. But the chemistry between the two is instantaneous. I fell for Frankie immediately but I think it was only in the final extraordinarily fabulous final third of The Lost that I fully realised how much these two have to offer the reader. But the suspects and victims are every bit as interesting as the police. This is much more complex than you might at first think.
The mystery here is cleverly developed and it is almost entirely character-driven. We spend time moving between characters – suspects, victims and police – and they all have much to offer. I did think that the novel flagged a little in the middle, largely because I had no idea in which direction it was going to take me, but, as previously mentioned, the final third is so breathtaking and thrilling I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough.
I suspect that Stone and Oliver will hit the floor running in the next novel. There is a lot of back history that needs to be teased out of our two detectives. I think that once this is all in the open everything will move along with a freer pace. I love the setting and I’m really enjoying getting to know the police team. More than anything, though, I know that Frankie Oliver is well on the way to become one of my favourite detectives. She’s a marvellous creation and I can’t wait to see her again. I suspect that Stone feels exactly the same way.