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Thursday, 28 July 2016

‘The Bad Things’ by Mary-Jane Riley

Published by Harper Collins Killer Reads,
August 2015.
ISBN 978-0-00-815378-6

Fifteen years ago Alex Devlin's nephew and niece were snatched from her garden while she was looking after them. The little boy's drowned body was discovered in a suitcase but the little girl was never found. Martin Jessop and Jackie Wood were jailed for their murder but now Jackie has been released after her conviction was quashed on appeal and Martin has hanged himself. Still trying to put things right, Alex uses her job as a journalist as an excuse to meet Jackie Wood and try to find out where Millie is buried.

The book is listed as a darkly compelling thriller but is as much a police procedural as a thriller, the action being split between the viewpoints of Alex Devlin and DI Kate Todd, two women who are still affected by the trauma of events all those years ago. The main characters are engaging and sympathetic and make it an absorbing read. Alex still carries the guilt of allowing the children to disappear while under her care and has a secret she is desperate to kept hidden. Kate, who was a young PC at the time and found the body of the boy, is consumed with demons that prevent her from living life to the full. Both are very likeable characters with believable motivations.

The setting of the Norfolk countryside in November perfectly reflects the bleak nature of the crime against two innocent children. It is fairly obviously from the blurb on the back of the book what the ending is going to be and it is not a book full of surprises or twists and turns but it is an excellent read. The straightforward narrative follows the two women as, in their own ways, they try to discover what really happened all those years ago and the motivation for recent events. 
Reviewer Christine Hammacott

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism. The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads, is out on April 28th. In her spare time Mary-Jane likes to walk the dog and eat a lot. Good job she likes walking.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.

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