Simon & Schuster | 2020 (15 October) | 392p | Review copy | Buy the book
DI Ben Kitto and his team of friends, neighbours and colleagues are swimming around the coastline of the small Scilly Island of St Mary’s, in training for the annual summer Swimathon, when they make a terrible discovery. Hanging from Pulpit Rock is the body of a young woman and she is dressed as a bride. Sabine had left her home in Latvia to spend some months on the island, to improve her English, and now she has been brutally murdered. With his boss on holiday, it’s up to Ben to take charge. He locks down the island, he moves into the hotel where Sabine had worked, and he begins the hunt for the killer that he knows must still be on the island. And then another young woman goes missing.
There are some series that not only entertain and thrill but also comfort and Kate Rhodes’ Ben Kitto series is definitely one of them. I adore these books and always look forward to immersing myself in the beautiful, remote and somehow menacing small world of these islands, guarded by Ben Kitto and his dog Shadow. Although the islands are small, it seems as if all of life can be found on them, which does lead, unfortunately and hopefully fictionally!, to regular murders. And often the killers are islanders. The result is a fabulous series of novels which have the feel of classic crime about them – murder in a confined or remote setting, a limited number of suspects, the fear that anyone might be next and that the person next to you at the town hall meeting to discuss the murders might actually be the killer. But what gives these novels an extra edge is its detective Ben.
Ben is a fantastic character. He has a past in London, but it doesn’t intrude too much. That’s a world he left behind when he returned to the Scilly Islands where he was born. He’s in an odd position. He’s an islander who has known many people on the islands for his whole life but he’s also an outsider, having spent so many years away. His relationships are complicated, made even more so by his job, but they’re fascinating to watch. And I love Shadow, Ben’s dog, who guards the islands every bit as much as Ben.
Pulpit Rock is the fourth book in the series and, just like the others, stands alone very well. Its story is self-contained and such a good one. But I would urge you to read the other three, just so you can fall in love with Ben and Shadow as I have. The cast of characters is fabulous in Pulpit Rock, some we’ve met before and others we haven’t.
I love the way Kate Rhodes writes. This is such an evocative book. The islands play a vital part in the novels, which move between them. Places are beautifully described and there is such a strong sense of history and tradition surrounding them. Likewise the sea and the elements play their role. The communities are dependent on the sea for so much, not least as an escape for the mainland, and sometimes it turns against them. This time, though, we are there in the heat of the summer.
This series can do no wrong in my eyes and Pulpit Rock is completely fabulous.