Hope to Die By Cara Hunter: Bristling with tension and powerful emotions – book review –

When the police are called to the gruesome shooting of a man at an isolated farmhouse on the outskirts of a rural village, it appears at first to be a burglary gone wrong.

Hope to Die by Cara Hunter
Hope to Die by Cara Hunter

But the officer in charge of the case, DI Adam Fawley, is not convinced and soon his team are trawling through the evidence and discovering connections to a high-profile case from years ago… a case that involved a child’s murder and an alleged miscarriage of justice.

Hope to Die, a terrific, twisting, turning tale of murder and mystery, is the sixth book in Cara Hunter’s outstanding Oxford-based police series and if you thought last year’s pulsating The Whole Truth – a prestigious Richard & Judy Book Club pick – couldn’t be bettered, then get your hands on this super-intelligent, super compelling new chapter for Fawley and his team.

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Written in her own leafy corner of Oxford, and steeped in gritty reality, suspense and authentic detective work, Hunter’s series has – unsurprisingly to her army of fans – sold more than a million copies worldwide, seen the TV rights acquired by the Fremantle group and left her comfortably perched on the top branch of the crime-writing tree.

And this new page-turner – which was inspired by a real-life murder mystery – is brimming with all the gripping thrills, psychological chills and brilliant police procedural detail that we have come to expect from a classy crime series set in the city that spawned the unforgettable Inspector Morse.

Taking the lead once again is DI Adam Fawley whose personal life has been transformed by the birth of baby daughter Lily Rose, the child whose arrival has banished many of the dark shadows that have surrounded him and his wife Alex since the tragic death of their ten-year-old son Jake two years ago.

But now work calls… a man has been shot dead at Gantry Manor, a run-down farmhouse in the village of Wytham. It is owned by elderly couple, Richard and Margaret Swann, and as Mr Swann has openly admitted shooting the man with his own shotgun, it seems initially like the intruder was a burglar.

But DI Fawley suspects there is something more to this case. The police were alerted to the scene after neighbours reported hearing gunfire… the Swanns had not called 999 for help. And why does Mr Swann seem remarkably composed, why had the intruder been shot in the face at such close range, and why does Swann have no blood on him despite the kitchen looking ‘like an abattoir’?

The murder leads Fawley and the team to a convoluted investigation from the past, and a family torn apart by a devastating crime involving a child's murder and an alleged miscarriage of justice. Can Fawley piece together the facts of history with the clues in the present? Sometimes the truth is the hardest answer to face up to because when you dig up the past, you're sure to find a few skeletons.

In trademark style, Hope to Die features Hunter’s artful plotting, superb characterisation, and a highly successful and original narrative device which features news reports, social media posts, police interviews, scene-of-crime evidence – and in this case, a Netflix documentary series – which allow readers intriguing insights into past and present enquiries.

As always the observant, introspective and compassionate Fawley, and his eclectic, brilliantly drawn team of officers, are at the beating heart of the investigation with their personal and professional lives perfectly balanced against the unfolding of a haunting, complex mystery which abounds with ingenious plot twists, and explores humanity in all its different guises.

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With new information drip-feeding into the story like a constantly flowing stream – unloading explosive revelations like scatter-bombs – all expectations are constantly turned on their head right up until the final, jaw-dropping page.

Perfectly paced, bristling with tension and powerful emotions, peppered with Hunter’s brand of dark humour, and with a helpful summary of the police characters, this is a story that can easily be read as a standalone… but be warned, readers new to the series will almost certainly be left eager to seek out and devour all the back titles!

(Penguin, paperback, £8.99)