Simon & Schuster | 2018 (15 November) | 404p | Review copy
After years of service in the Metropolitan Police, DI Ben Kitto has now settled back into life on the Scilly Isles where he grew up and where he realises he belongs. He is the Deputy Chief of Police for the islands. It’s not always easy – the chief is no friend to Ben – but Eddie the constable is warming to him and there’s hardly a soul on the islands, barring the influx of summer visitors, that Ben doesn’t know. Surely, then, there can be no room for secrets on these islands where everybody knows everyone else’s business?
When the body of local professional diver Jude Trellon is discovered anchored to the rocks in a cave, it is initially assumed that her death was a tragic accident. That’s until a curious artefact is found wedged in her mouth and a message inside a bottle is found tied to her ankle. It’s clear to Ben that there is a killer loose on the islands and they have something to say. Jude’s murder is just the beginning.
I loved Hell Bay, the first of Kate Rhodes’ novels to feature DI Ben Kitto. He is such a fascinating detective. He has a history he’s trying to forget but he deals with it by returning to the little island of Bryher where he is confronted by his past every single day. Ben is renewing his friendships with people he abandoned years before but he also has a new companion – Shadow, a wolfhound who has chosen to adopt Ben for the time being. They spend much of their time walking across the Scilly Isles, along its rugged coast, past its smugglers’ cottages, ruined abbeys and sailing its inviting yet dangerous seas. Kate Rhodes’ richly evocative prose makes sure that we’re there with them every step of the way. It’s wonderful and feels such a distance away from the London that Ben has left behind.
Alongside the beauty there is the danger – the storms, the relentless tides, the killer. There is also the discomfort of living in such a small community. If a bad thing happens, one might never be allowed to forget it. It is possible to think you know someone too well when in reality you don’t know them at all. I love how we get to know the islanders, watching them interact, pull together when tragedy strikes. Ruin Beach has such a good plot to go along with the beautiful location, the warm sunshine and the menacing mood. It develops at the perfect pace for the setting. It takes its time, leading us a gorgeous dance around the islands, until the final chapters which are explosive.
Ruin Beach is such an engaging and engrossing read. There is an escapist feel to it which I really enjoyed. Island life is every bit as important, if not more so, than the crime under investigation. When one person is harmed, so many others suffer. Plus there’s the fact that the number of potential suspects is so limited and the majority of these may be people that an islander has known all their lives. I love Kate Rhodes’ elegant, descriptive prose and Ben Kitto, perhaps the tallest man on the islands, stands out in so many ways. It’s a very strong follow up to Hell Bay and I know that when Burnt Island is published in 2019 it will go straight to the top of my reading pile.