Book review: The Silent Room by Mari Hannah
Not content with the runaway success of her brilliant DCI Kate Daniels murder mystery series, Mari Hannah is setting her far-reaching sights on the Special Branch.
The Silent Room, played out against the familiar backdrop of Hannah’s charming but chilly Northumbrian patch, is her first gripping, standalone thriller and marks out this former probation officer as one of our most exciting and accomplished crime writers.
Since the publication of The Murder Wall in 2012, Hannah has deservedly moved into the top league, producing deep, dark, action-packed thrillers that showcase her keen eye for authentic police and forensic detail, masterful plotting and superb characterisation skills.
This new page-turning crime mystery takes readers back to the tough streets of the North-East but into fresh and fertile police territory with a young Special Branch sergeant who is under suspicion after the arrest of his boss for alleged corruption.
His battle to clear both his name and the chief he is convinced has been framed takes us into the heart of an international conspiracy and to the most dangerous corners of the ruthless criminal world.
Northumbria Special Branch officer Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan knows with absolute certainty that his inspirational boss, DI Jack Fenwick, is not corrupt despite the discovery of a stash of firearms at his home.
It has to be ‘a fit-up’ and Ryan doesn’t change his mind when the security van carrying Fenwick to Durham jail is hijacked by armed men en route and the prisoner bundled into a waiting car.
In Ryan’s view, Fenwick was abducted not sprung but officers from the Professional Standards branch, better known in the force as ‘the rubber heelers’ for their supposedly softly-softly approach, suspect that Ryan, Fenwick’s friend and loyal colleague, was somehow involved.
Suspended from duty and locked out of the investigation, Ryan is warned to stay away as a manhunt gets underway but the young officer is determined to prove that both he and Fenwick are innocent.
Meanwhile, former Special Branch officer Grace Ellis, still bored after several years of retirement, is equally unconvinced by the charges levelled against her protégé Fenwick and enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend and former MI5 spook Frank Newman to clear his name.
When the official investigation falls apart, Ryan joins forces with other sympathisers and, under surveillance and with his life in danger, he sets out to rescue Fenwick and discover the truth. And when the trail leads to the suspicious death of a Norwegian, Ryan uncovers more than he had bargained for… an international conspiracy that has already cost many lives.
Hannah springs some terrific surprises on her unsuspecting readers in a tension-filled story that combines brutal, breathtaking action sequences with a whole gamut of human emotions from fear, jealousy and fallibility to love, loyalty and unswerving devotion.
As always, Hannah’s intelligent plotting is given extra impetus by a cast of vibrant and credible characters, each beautifully portrayed and each explored and developed with the author’s remarkable insight, empathy and sensitivity.Clever, compelling and sophisticated, could The Silent Room herald the start of a very special new crime series?
(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)