"Hide and Seek" M J Arlidge
This is the 6th book in Arlidge's best-selling series about DI Helen Grace.
She's spent her whole life hiding.
Behind the badge. Behind her reputation as one of the country's best detectives. Until - framed for murder - she became one of its most high-profile prisoners.
Now there is nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.
Because HMP Holloway is a place of dark days and long nights with dangers at every turn. Despised by the inmates and reviled by the guards, DI Helen Grace must face her nightmare alone.
And then a carefully mutilated body is found in a locked cell.
Now Helen must find a ruthless serial killer. Before the killer finds her.
Book 5 in the DI Grace series, "Little Boy Blue", ended with a real cliffhanger and this book picks up from that point with Helen framed for murder.
I have not read all 5 DI Grace thrillers but I have read the last couple, so I was up to date with the characters and the backstory. It is possible to read "Hide and Seek" as a stand alone, but it will be more rewarding to read the series in order. The best thing about Arlidge is that his writing style is very readable and his books are real page turners so it won't take you long to catch up with the back catalogue!
I actually thought this was one of the best books so far in the series. It is set inside Holloway Prison and there is something deeply claustrophobic and menacing about this. The entire atmosphere from the very beginning is uncomfortable and oppressive. I haven't read many books where the action is so firmly placed within the confines of cells and it certainly increases the tension and suspense.
Arlidge emphasises this sinister atmosphere by describing Leah's fear as she tries to return to her cell:
"Lock up was only fifteen minutes away and Leah knew that if she could make it back to her cell she would be safe. .........They knew. And now they were coming for her. It was just a question of where and when. Holloway Prison is a maze of narrow, ill-lit corridors, with numerous opportunities for ambush. Leah knew the terrain better than most - she'd been here five years already - but that was no guarantee of safety. Not when you were being hunted by the pack."
There is an overwhelming sense of malice and I liked the predatory descriptions of the other cell mates. The sense that Leah is being hunted and that Helen is under threat create an intensity. The knowledge that they are so confined and trapped by the prison induces a great deal of panic in the reader.
Helen's character is really interesting and Arlidge is ably sustaining her appeal and attraction with each instalment. She is brave, intelligent, always willing to take risks and fight for the truth. She can be quite formidable. What's really interesting in this book is the complete role reversal a police officer is now the prisoner. Being a police officer in prison is by no means going to be easy.
"In her former life, she'd been a respected police officer - she would have dealt with someone like Campbell swiftly and decisively - but now she was powerless to act. In here she was the butt of all jokes, an accident waiting to happen, a handsome trophy for any inmate brave enough to chance an attack. "
Arlidge creates a very stressful situation. How is Helen going to prove her innocence while on trial herself, locked away in a cell? How is she going to prove there's a serial killer still out there while also trying to keep herself alive? This book does not shy away from the dark and the dramatic!
"In Holloway, danger was only a heartbeat away."
It is a very engaging read, a real page turner and you'll find yourself flying through it, engrossed in Helen's plight and the terrified by the portrayal of prison life. The details and description ensure a real sense of authenticity and the characters are all very well drawn. It was certainly easy to picture. Fortunately my only experience of prison is from "Orange is the New Black" but there were some incidents in the book which stayed with me and left me squirming.
"as she took her first spoonful of porridge, she soon discovered how naive she'd been. As she broke the thick skin, a fat cockroach wriggled to the surface, fighting for its life in the thick, milky brew."
Arlidge's writing is full of pace and his concise yet effective imagery is very powerful. For example in his description of a victim's body he writes:
"A road map of trauma, neglect and self hatred. ....This was not a woman who'd thought much of herself or who'd found much succour in life."
There is a strong cast of secondary characters who are also well depicted. Charlie Brooks is out there trying to fight to prove Helen's innocence and I also liked some of the inmates - or the idea of a police officer having to trust the words of a convicted murderer as part of their research.
If you're a fan of MJ Arlidge then this instalment will not disappoint. If you are looking for a new detective thriller series then I would also highly recommend that you introduce yourself to Helen Grace as soon as you can! I think the location and premise for this particular book make it stand out as a particularly exciting read!
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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