Book review: Settled Blood by Mari Hannah

When award-winning Mari Hannah’s debut novel The Murder Wall hit the shelves earlier this year, she made giant waves in the murky waters of crime thrillers.

Her tough but likeable cop, DCI Kate Daniels, proved to be a classy, clever creation – a down-to-earth, edgy and determined detective who runs a police patch in the harsh terrain of the cold, bold North East of England.

And now Hannah – with Kate and her well-crafted murder investigation team in tow – returns for another complex, compelling case which confirms the author as a major new force in crime fiction.

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Superb plotting, authentic police procedural detail and vivid characterisation are fast becoming the hallmarks of her writing, with fast-paced action, psychological suspense and big slices of show-stopping emotion adding ballast to perfectly balanced murder mysteries.

Here Hannah takes us to the beautiful but wild countryside near Hexham in Northumberland where a young woman has been found dead at the base of Hadrian’s Wall in the shadow of Sewingshields Crags.

It’s not long before DCI Kate Daniels realises her death was no ordinary homicide. Her body, now ‘splayed out awkwardly like a discarded rag doll,’ was thrown from a great height but, forensics reveal, she was probably alive before she hit the ground.

Why was she wearing five-inch stiletto shoes more suited to the party pulse of Newcastle’s Quayside rather than a hillside heritage site, why is there no mud on the heels, why are there no tyre tracks and how did she get there?

Within hours, local businessmen and widower Adam Finch reports that his teenage daughter Jessica, a student at Durham University, is missing and he has received a ransom note.

Has Daniels found the identity of her victim, or is the killer playing a sickening game at the expense of Finch, a cold and obsessive man who ‘owns half of North Yorkshire’ and is a golf-playing pal of Daniels’ boss?

As the police and forensics team delves deeper into the case, half truths are told, secrets exposed, and while Daniels makes her way through a mountain of obstacles and anomalies, time is running out for one terrified girl...

Settled Blood is testament to Hannah’s own work experience with the police and probation service. Her understanding of how a murder investigation team ticks gives an aura of credibility to the dialogue, the internal politics, the rivalries and the social interaction between team members.

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Brutal, shockingly realistic and satisfyingly unpredictable, this is a thrilling, chilling tale with an eclectic cast, formidable star player and charismatic location ideally suited to the small screen.

Move over DCI Jane Tennison, there’s a new kid on the block and she’s the Prime Suspect for your TV slot!

(Pan, paperback, £6.99)