River of Souls by Kate Rhodes (2015)

It’s lovely when an author pulls you into a world, into a story, into the lives of her characters with the very first words of a book.

“The Thames is preparing  to race back to the sea, currents twisting like sinews of muscle. Endless rain has upset its smoothness, reflected lights scattering in a blur of silver. A man stands beside it, gazing across the water’s moonlit surface, listening to the voices of the drowned ….”

‘Lovely’ is probably not the right word, given that this is a dark crime novel; let’s just say that Kate Rhodes writes very well indeed, and that I’d happily read almost any kind of novel she might chose to write.

At present she is writing ‘expert working with the police’ procedurals, and this is the fourth book in a series centred around the life and work of Alice Quentin, a forensic psychologist.

This book stands alone, and can be read without reading the three that came before; but I have to say that your understanding of the characters and relationships of Alice and the people around her would be enhanced by reading in order. I’m happy to recommend all four!

25307541Jude Shelley, the daughter of a cabinet minister, was left for dead in the Thames. She was horrifically injured and her face was destroyed. The police investigation reached a dead end,but it was re-opened when the body of an elderly priest was recovered from the river. His injuries were strikingly similar to Jude’s; he had an artefact reclaimed from the river tied to his body, as Jude had.

Jude’s mother had read Alice’s book, and she asked that she be part of the investigation. That brought Alice back to work with DCI Burns and his team again; they had a complicated history, but each had respect for the other’s professional expertise.

There would be more murders.

The story stays close to Alice, as she works with the police, as she meets and assesses key figures in the enquiry, as she researches the artefacts found with the bodies, as she interviews witnesses and those who were close to the victims.

Most strikingly, she works so sensitively with Jude, who lies in a private hospital bed, her life still very much in the balance, in the hope that understanding her relationships with her family and friends, and maybe reawakening memories of the night she was attacked, would lead her to the killer.

That gives this story such depth, and makes it moving in a way that crime novels rarely are.

I love that Alice is a capable professional, and I appreciate the complexity, and believability of her character.

All of characterisation – of the city and its people – was real and complicated and wonderful. The ongoing story – Alice’s difficult relationship with her mother, her concern for her errant brother, her warm bond with her dearest friend – held my interest, and provided an effective backdrop to the crime story. However serious the investigation may be, life goes on.

The portrayal and the psychology of Jude’s family, shaken to the core by what had happened, was particularly intriguing. Alice believed that they were keeping secrets, and that those secrets held part – if not all – of the solution to the case.

The story was compelling, and though I thought I had the solution quite early in the story I discovered that I was wrong. The plotting was very clever; the quality of the plot, the characterisation, and the writing held me from start to finish.

My only disappointment was that the building blocks of the ‘expert working with the police’ procedural were a little too obvious; the lining up of suspects, the shifts to the killer’s perspective, the escalation of events, the dramatic final act, …. I was a little sorry that this was so clearly a certain type of book.

Kate Rhodes does it all very well, but I’d love to see her stretch – or even break – the boundaries. And I think she’s too good a writer not to.

* * * * * * *

13 thoughts on “River of Souls by Kate Rhodes (2015)

  1. This sounds good…I love good writing, especially when it centers around memorable, “real” characters. And it doesn’t hurt when there’s a compelling, suspenseful plot. I’m looking forward to giving Rhodes a try. Thanks for another great review!

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  2. I’ve read no. 3 – The Winter Foundlings; loved it – and have a copy of this to review, and no. 2 to allow me to catch up on background. Really fantastic review Jane, I particularly agree with the last two paragraphs. Now I can’t wait to read it…

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  3. The closest type of book is possibly Nicci French’s Frieda Klein series, named after days of the week. I felt previously they’d started to run out of ideas, but this series is excellent. Like Alice, Frieda has issues to deal with herself. If you haven’t read any you should look out for the Monday one, the name of which escapes me.

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      1. Me too – but this series seems to be working really well for them. The twist in the Monday volume is utterly audacious, but at the same time entirely feasible. Shouldn’t be hard to get hold of – the Friday one’s just came out in hardback.

        I must get to the library – used to go all the time, as we lived round the corner from it, but since we moved to this bigger flat, I never seem to pop up at that way. (Thankfully I have no business with the police or the homeless accommodation, which is all that’s up there!) It’s great being able to get older books, or take a punt on something different, without the pressure of having to review it (or pay for it!) We’ve got to use them or we will lose more. And I ALWAYS see something I want!

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