Breakneck Point by T Orr Munro: An atmospheric and dazzlingly authentic debut – book review –
It’s a brave decision which costs experienced CSI Ally a place on Devon’s major investigations team and leaves her working petty crime cases on the sleepy northern coast of the county... until the discovery of a young woman’s body endangers not just Ally’s life, but that of her 15-year-old daughter.
Stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood because T. Orr Munro – who trained as a CSI and knows exactly what goes on behind the police crime scene tape – thrills, chills and impresses with the first book of her atmospheric and dazzlingly authentic debut serial killer series set in the dark corners of a windswept seaside town.
And Breakneck Point lives up to both its name and its billing as Munro harnesses her forensic experiences, and work as a police and crime journalist, on this fast-moving, heart-pounding and disturbing thriller which pits a manipulative and merciless killer against a maverick CSI determined to dig out the truth.
Six months after she publicly refused to be part of a police inspector’s attempt to pervert the course of justice by ‘fiddling the evidence’ in a murder case, senior CSI Ally Dymond has paid a high price for exposing corruption in the ranks and, as some see it, ‘allowing a murderer to walk free.’
Now Ally is off the principal investigation team and working in a rural outpost in the rundown seaside town of Bidecombe where the openly hostile police team hardly acknowledge her existence.
But when the body of nineteen-year-old Janie Warren is found by a dog walker near Bidecombe Quay, Ally’s expert skills in suspicious deaths are suddenly back in demand. It’s only a few months since Janie was badly beaten by her boyfriend Chris Banstead and when he is seen on CCTV running away from the scene, the police are convinced they have the case wrapped up.
Ally – who prefers to let the science do the talking – is far from certain that Banstead is the killer and when she finds evidence to contradict the theory of lead detective DI Bob Holt, nobody wants to listen to the civilian CSI who landed their colleagues in prison.
And soon time is running out to catch a murderer that no one is looking for... no one except Ally. And what she doesn’t know is that he’s watching – from her side of the crime scene tape – and just waiting for the moment to strike.
Munro sweeps readers into the fascinating world of crime forensics as we follow Ally’s almost lone battle to track down the serial killer. But what gives this exciting story an extra power boost, and a compelling layer of spine-tingling menace, is that we learn – almost from the start – who the murderer is and witness how dangerously close he can get to Ally and the team.
And what a gripping cat-and-mouse chase it proves to be as the tension ratchets up to danger level as principled, conscientious Ally – the woman whose ‘domain is the dead, not the living’– juggles the pressures of her high-profile job with her guilty struggle to maintain a close relationship with her troubled teenage daughter Megan.
Add on the dual narrative that weaves constantly and intriguingly between Ally and the psychopathic killer, a claustrophobic sense of unease, a nail-biting finale, the alluring backdrop of a tired Devon seaside town with a neglected high street and a fast-fading charm, and Breakneck Point is the perfect starting point to an enthralling new series.
(HQ, paperback, £8.99)