The Bad Place ~ M K Hill

Twenty-six years ago six children were taken, only five came back. One of them, Becky Haskell, was cruelly murdered by their abductor, Jerry Swann, who was then shot dead by an armed police officer.  Present was a young WPC, Sasha Chancellor, who in her first week on the job dared to challenge decisions made by the officer in command, Peter Carrington, a hard drinking DI who would later be drummed off the force for the mistakes he made during the investigation. Now, married and with a troubled family situation, DI Sasha Dawson finds herself investigating the abduction of another child, Sammi Manning, a teenager who turns out to have a connection with one of the five original survivors.

For twenty-six years, Karin, Lydia, Michelle, Simon and Paul have gathered on the anniversary of Becky’s death to remember their lost friend. None of them has ever truly recovered from their ordeal and you sense that these meetings are more of a penance than a help.  When Sammi is taken their fragile lives come under scrutiny again from both the police and the media and it becomes apparent that someone is manipulating their weaknesses to draw attention to the original case and point the finger of blame for Becky’s death at one of them.

Struggling with a family situation which requires a firmer hand and far more time than she has to give, Dawson finds herself being repeatedly distracted from the main inquiry by the crimes that some of the original five have been drawn into and which come to light as attention is once more focused on their actions.  With both the public and the press on her back, when a second child is taken she is lucky to have the support not only of a strong team, DS Ajay de Vaz, DC Lolly Chambers and DC Craig Power, but also in DCI Vaughn (don’t mention the Claude) a more humane boss than most fictional DIs seem to possess.

Supportive though her team are, however, when a third child is taken Sasha is forced to go off the grid and face the abductor accompanied only by Karin McCarthy who, it gradually becomes apparent, knows more about why it was that Becky alone failed to survive the original ordeal than she has been admitting and who is now very much the focus of the new kidnapper’s attention.

Hill’s book has been very well reviewed and rightly so.  For a first novel it catches the attention in terms of both plot and character far better than many other initial episodes of crime series that I can think of.  I shall certainly by looking out for whatever comes next.  However, I hope that future books will come to the public better edited than this.  The first time we meet Sasha I got totally confused because in my copy her encounter with Carrington reads:

‘What’s your name?’

‘Chancellor, sir’. She swallowed. ‘WPC Chancellor’.

‘I like your attitude, Dawson, very admirable’.

Why does the DI’s attention suddenly turn from Chancellor to someone called Dawson?  I’m not yet far enough into the book to know that this will become Sasha’s married name and Carrington is definitely too drunk to be credited with miraculous prescience.  Very confusing.

And then there is Craig Power.  I think he’s a DC, but I’m not sure because at least half a dozen times he is referred to as Sergeant or DS. This is pure carelessness and Hill deserves better.   However, you’re all sick of my jumping up on my poor editing soapbox, I’m sure and if police procedurals are your ‘thing’ don’t let such slips put you off and do add Hill to your reading list.  I think he’s going to be worth following.


9 thoughts on “The Bad Place ~ M K Hill

  1. A Life in Books September 20, 2019 / 6:51 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more about editing. It’s distracting enough when it’s a small matter of a few inconsistences but the instance you quote is downright confusing.


    • Café Society September 20, 2019 / 7:24 pm

      Yes, and particularly coming so early in the novel. Very disconcerting.


      • A Life in Books September 21, 2019 / 8:58 am

        I thought of you when I came across a passage in my current, very enjoyable read in which the main protagonist makes a cup of ‘builder’s tea’. The misused apostrophe is annoying enough but we’re in 1930s New York!


  2. Alyson Woodhouse September 21, 2019 / 11:17 am

    This sounds like a good story, but there are two things putting me off reading it just now. The first is the somewhat careless editing, I would find it too distracting after a while. The other thing though is a trope I am beginning to get really fed up with: the detective with a dysfunctional family. I guess it is there in order to add extra pressure for the main character, but it has become overdone, and is starting to get really tiresome.


    • Café Society September 22, 2019 / 11:02 am

      Yes, Alyson, this seems to be the current shape of detective fiction. We went through a phase where it was the case that the lead character had a dreadful family tragedy in their background which was still being worked through at the same time as their cases. I could say, don’t worry this trope will soon be out of fashion, but the trouble is that it will almost certainly be replaced by another one.


  3. FictionFan September 21, 2019 / 8:08 pm

    Not sick of your soapbox at all! I’d much rather know when a book is poorly edited so I can be sure to avoid it – these kind of errors drive me crazy. You’re kinder than me, though – I do blame editors but I feel authors ought to be capable of catching most of their own errors.


    • Café Society September 22, 2019 / 11:03 am

      Actually, FF, I showed this to a friend yesterday who has published considerably in her own field and she said exactly the same. Yes, an editor should have picked it up but so should the author at proof reading stage.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. drharrietd September 22, 2019 / 8:06 am

    This sounds good -please don’t step off the editing soapbox though as I totally agree about how annoying it (or the lack of it) can be.


    • Café Society September 22, 2019 / 11:04 am

      Editing problems aside, Harriet, do read this. It’s a promising start to a series. By the way, I’m just starting The Lady in the Lake on your recommendation and hoping it is going to keep me entertained for what looks as if it is going to be a very wet Sunday.


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