Devil’s Table by Kate Rhodes: A superbly created crime thriller – book review –

When an 11-year-old girl goes missing on the small Scilly island of St Martin’s, her wealthy father is convinced it is just another ‘prank’ by his spirited twin daughter.

Devil’s Table by  Kate Rhodes
Devil’s Table by Kate Rhodes

But the child’s worried mother is not so sure and soon Detective Inspector Ben Kitto, Deputy Commander of the Island Police, is launching a desperate hunt that will lead to the discovery of a body at an ancient, altar-shaped rock formation known as the Devil’s Table.

Welcome back to the Scilly Isles, the stunning backdrop to a series of ‘locked-island’ mysteries from the pen of acclaimed crime novelist Kate Rhodes whose annual childhood holidays at this tourism hotspot off the Cornish coast have spawned a string of superbly created crime thrillers.

Loved by readers and critics for their perfect pacing, clever plotting and lyrical writing, these addictive stories have included the page-turners Hell Bay, Ruin Beach, Burnt Island and Pulpit Rock, and now Rhodes brings us a new and wonderfully atmospheric mystery set deep in the heart of a fog-bound winter.

One December night when a thick sea fog blows across the island of St Martin’s, twins Jade and Ethan Minear sneak out of their home on a large flower farm in the middle of the night and are attacked in a field where their father grows narcissi.

Ethan, the twin who was born second and was always ‘destined to play catch-up forever,’ manages to escape the attacker and runs home. But the shocking events of Jade’s disappearance (the twin who acted as Ethan’s ‘voice’) have rendered him mute and unable to tell his parents or the police what happened.

When DI Ben Kitto is called to the twins’ home, the children’s father, Scott Minear, initially believes Jade has run away and is just being her usual ‘drama queen’ but his wife, Gemma, is tense and edgy, and worried that there is a connection to a lump of rock, which had the words ‘Devil’s Table’ scrawled on it, and was recently thrown through their living room window.

On a small island where there are only 140 inhabitants and few places a child can hide, Ben must battle the elements to search for Jade and when his investigation reveals that the Minear family, the richest on the island, have many enemies, Ben grows increasingly worried that the girl is in danger.

Meanwhile, someone on the island knows exactly where Jade is… someone with a deep-seated hatred of Jade’s family. To find the truth, Ben must investigate the lives of the people he has known all of his life. Because one of them is lying... and it isn’t long before a body is found at the Devil’s Table.

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It’s no surprise that Rhodes has been dubbed ‘a twenty-first century Agatha Christie’ as her addictive mysteries always feature a cast of exquisitely fleshed-out characters, an intriguing plot that neatly twists and turns its way through all the action and drama, and the kind of lyrical writing that one would expect from an author who is also an award-winning poet.

But also playing a major role in these complex and satisfying crime tales is Rhodes’ authentic sense of place… a gripping evocation of a dazzling landscape that can be rendered both beautiful and menacing, and a collection of small, claustrophobic communities that can be both welcoming and deeply suspicious of ‘incomers.’

At the heart of the investigation is our likeable and dependable Ben Kitto, a giant of man with a gentle soul whose life has been overshadowed by a tragedy but whose sense of justice and fair play never falters as he digs deep to unearth the truth.

Add on one of the shining stars of these top-notch thrillers – Ben’s faithful and sharp-nosed wolfdog Shadow – and you have a series that shows no sign of flagging!

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(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)