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Books 43-44: Secrets to the Grave and Kind of Cruel

Book 43: Secrets to the Grave (Oak Knoll #2).
Author: Tami Hoag, 2010.
Genre: Police Procedural. Period Fiction (1980s)
Other Details: Hardback. 458 pages.

The year is 1986 and the inhabitants of Oak Knoll, California are still coming to terms with the shocking events of the previous year as detailed in Deeper than the Dead. Then Marissa Fordham , a vivacious artist, is found brutally murdered. The only witness to the crime is Hayley, her four-year old daughter. Though badly injured, Hayley had managed to dial 911 with the message that "Daddy hurt Mummy". However, Marissa has never revealed the identity of her child's father and Hayley is too traumatised to reveal anything further. Anne, one of the leading characters from the previous novel, is now working as a child-advocate and is assigned to assist with Hayley. This places her and her loved ones in danger.

This was a chilling re-visit to Oak Knoll. Given the number of spoilers and continuing story lines from the first book, Deeper than the Dead, this is a series that needs to be read in order.

I found it a very gripping crime thriller, which proved almost impossible to put down once started. I will warn though that the central murder and other factors are quite gruesome. Again, the mid-1980s setting allowed for many of the things crime fiction fans take for granted in contemporary novels and television, such as DNA evidence and profiling, to be considered quite innovative techniques. Likewise, the lack of mobile phones and the internet highlight how much we've become used to these conveniences in our daily lives as well as our fiction.

Book 44: Kind of Cruel (Spilling CID #7).
Author: Sophie Hannah, 2012.
Genre: Psychological Thriller. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Hardback. 384 pages.

Amber Hewerdine hasn't slept properly since the arson attack that killed her best friend. She is also haunted by the mysterious two-day disappearance of four members of her extended family while they were all away on a Christmas break in 2003. She is convinced that somewhere in her unconscious lies the key to that mystery and so she consults a hypnotherapist. When placed under hypnosis she blurts out the words: "Kind, cruel, kind of cruel". These words mean nothing to her and she leaves in a confused state. Two hours later and the police are at her door and Amber finds that she is under suspicion for the murder of a woman she has never heard of.

Well once again Sophie Hannah has managed to twist my brain into all kinds of knots with her latest thriller in this series. The continuing story of the police characters remains an appealing part of the series for me, alongside the labyrinthine central case. Due to the exploration of the nature of memory, Hannah spends more time than usual on the thought processes of Amber as well as having the hypnotherapist as a second first person narrator for some sections. I remain full of admiration for Hannah's ability to confound my expectations and continually surprise me. I am so glad to read that she's working on the 8th in the series for publication next year.
Tags: crime fiction, period fiction (20th century), sexual violence, thriller
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