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Book review: The Death Messenger by Mari Hannah

The Death Messenger by Mari Hannah
The Death Messenger by Mari Hannah

North East crime queen Mari Hannah is treading fertile new ground in the second book of her gritty and gripping Ryan and O’Neil detective series.

Hannah, award-winning author of the brilliant DCI Kate Daniels books, is still firmly rooting her thrillers in her now familiar rugged Northumbrian patch but this extraordinarily entertaining new crime mystery whisks us away to cosmopolitan Brighton, chilly Scotland and the distant shores of Copenhagen.

The Death Messenger is the pulsating follow-up to last year’s opener, The Silent Room, which introduced us to Detective Superintendent Eloise O’Neil and Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan, a dynamic duo who are shaping up to be one of crime fiction’s most charismatic partnerships.

A former probation officer with insider knowledge of detective work, Hannah is now a premier league author, creating deep, dark, action-packed thrillers that showcase her keen eye for authentic police and forensic detail, masterful plotting and superb characterisation.

When a mysterious DVD is delivered to Northumbria Police Headquarters, DS Matthew Ryan and Detective Superintendent Eloise O’Neil are among the few to view its disturbing contents. With little to go on, the only lead comes from the anonymous and chillingly calm and controlled woman’s voice narrating the blood-spattered lock-up depicted on screen.

The two detectives are part of a newly formed, secretive unit which can potentially cross international borders, working ‘on or off book,’ on assignments that are considered ‘too hot to handle.’

But with no victim visible, nor any indication of where the unidentifiable crime scene is located, Ryan and O’Neil get the distinct feeling that this ruthless, clinical killer is playing with them. What is certain is that the fledgling special unit has just taken on its first challenging case.

As further shocking videos start arriving at police stations around the country, the body count rises. But what connects all the victims and why are they being targeted?

By now, this devious assassin has ignited O’Neil’s fury… she doesn’t like a killer who calls the shots ‘like some wannabe Spielberg, lining up her fancy camerawork and delivering her lines while we hang around like spare parts.’

Meanwhile, the chemistry between the two detectives continues to smoulder with Ryan irresistibly drawn not just to O’Neil’s natural beauty but to her keen intellect and her ‘ability to punch above her weight.’

As the investigation deepens, the team is brought to breaking point by secrets from the past which threaten to derail their pursuit of a killer ‘stepping out on the road to hell.’

The Death Messenger sees Hannah at the top of her game in a story that blends gruesome serial killings, a Machiavellian assassin and some truly impressive forensic detective work to create an exciting and compulsive rollercoaster ride.

But what really makes this thriller stand out from the pack is the electrifying relationship between the moody, complicated O’Neil and the witty, straight-talking Ryan, two immensely likeable and very different characters whose success lies not in any flaws, foibles or personal issues but in the sheer charisma of their constantly fizzing chemistry.

This is proving to be a stunning and powerful series for Hannah… clever, captivating, dark and disturbing, and a must for readers who like their crime to come with a touch of class.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)