It’s four years now since we had the last novel from crime writer Mari Hannah featuring her volitile Northumbrian DCI, Kate Daniels. In the interim she has developed two other series, one featuring DS Matthew Ryan and the other CID officers David Stone and Frankie Oliver. While I’ve enjoyed both of these, nevertheless I was looking forward to getting back to Kate, whose exploits were our first introduction to Hannah’s work.
Without A Trace, the seventh Daniels’ novel, begins with Kate in turmoil. The personal relationship between her and the Force’s profiler, Jo Soulsby, lies in ruins and now that it seems there is no hope of resurrecting it, Kate is finally realising just what she has thrown away by her devotion to her job. Jo has taken off to New York and when news comes through of the disappearance of Flight 0113 somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean Kate is beside herself thinking that their final row has put Jo on the missing plane. Determined to find out just what has happened and desperately trying to convince herself that something will have stopped the profiler from boarding the flight, Kate takes off for London in an attempt to insinuate herself into the investigation into what it seems increasingly likely has been a terrorist incident. Accompanying her on their journey, even though he knows that their commander DCS Bright will not approve, and that their absence is likely to amount to professional suicide on the part of both of them, is the ever faithful DS Hank Gormley.
There are people around who owe Kate favours and as a result of calling in some of those she and Hank find themselves involved in the search for whoever was able to smuggle an explosive onto the plane, working hand in glove with homeland security agent, Gabriele Torres. However, DCS Bright is not so easily accepting of the absence of two of his senior officers, especially when the body of one of the local drug-lords, Russian, Yulian Nikolaev, is deposited at the local hospital with half his face blown off. Bright wants at least one of them to go back to lead the investigation and is incandescent with rage when it becomes apparent that that isn’t going to happen.
Not unexpectedly, because that’s the way crime novels work, the two investigations gradually come together and Kate and Hank return to Northumbria to support Acting DI Paul Robson (Robbo) in his hunt for Nikolaev’s killers. As those who have read the previous novels will know, Robbo has had a chequered history in his time in the murder squad, having made himself vulnerable as a result of a gambling addiction. With that now behind him, this killing is his chance to prove that he has what it takes to step up and lead an investigation and it seems that a link with his past might just provide him with the leverage he needs to identify those responsible.
Glad I was to see Kate and Hank return and to spend time again with those who make up the Northumbrian Murder Team, I didn’t feel that this was the strongest book in the series. You can’t read the other six books without being used to Kate going off piste, but in this novel she really pushes the boat out and although she gets results there were times when I found her behaviour and the way in which she is allowed to get away with it, too extreme to be believable. I also thought that the book was unbalanced in its treatment of the two cases and that, in fact, neither of them was given sufficient space because they had to vie for attention with Kate’s search for evidence that Jo might still be alive. It isn’t unusual in a crime novel for the detective’s personal life to impinge on an investigation, but in this instance I felt it spoilt the focus of the book. Nevertheless, I was glad to see Kate return and I hope that future outings may prove to be a little more centred on the crime itself.
With thanks to the Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing a review copy.