Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Bitter Edge by Rachel Lynch Blog Tour

Sometimes a book series comes along that really pulls you in, you know this is the case when you are in desperate need of the next story being released and this is exactly how I feel about the Kelly Porter novels from Rachel Lynch.

DI Kelly Porter is back, but so is an old foe and this time he won’t back down...

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These stories are very cleverly written because although you have Kelly's story running alongside a different crime in each book, you can easily read any of them as a stand alone so if you're already thinking a series of books isn't my thing, I'd suggest you hang on a while longer, especially as there's a fantastic excerpt to be read in this post.

When a teenage girl flings herself off a cliff in pursuit of a gruesome death, DI Kelly Porter is left asking why. Ruled a suicide, there’s no official reason for Kelly to chase answers, but as several of her team’s cases converge on the girl’s school, a new, darker story emerges. One which will bring Kelly face-to-face with an old foe determined to take back what is rightfully his – no matter the cost.

Mired in her pursuit of justice for the growing list of victims, Kelly finds security in Johnny, her family and the father she has only just discovered. But just as she draws close to unearthing the dark truth at the heart of her investigation, a single moment on a cold winter’s night shatters the notion that anything in Kelly’s world can ever truly be safe.

Review

What can I say? This series of books are a real joy to read and indulge in.

The concepts, which are truly believable, make the story lines easier to understand. This is a good thing because I find some books in this sort of genre can become too complicated, filled with more characters than necessary.

My favourite part each time is that throughout each book is the independent, brave protagonist and her own personal story running alongside the main focus which is the crime which have occurred. I think in part because she does what many of us do and takes hr work home with her. The honesty which she conveys is refreshing.

I like that Rachel Lynch has kept up her writing style. It's become familiar and I really look forward to each new book and Bitter Edge is no exception. 

Excerpt

Eden House was stifling in the summer and freezing in the winter. As soon as the clocks went back in October, the heating system usually packed up, and it took three weeks to get engineers to come and have a look. The grand old radiators, struggling under countless coats of gloss paint, caused much sucking of teeth, and every year, HQ would refuse funding to get the whole system replaced.

And so they wore coats and scarves.

This was intended to be the last full team briefing before Christmas, and they sat around a large table in the incident room, cradling mugs of coffee. The latest news was the promotion of Detective Constable Will Phillips to detective sergeant. It was, everyone agreed, thoroughly deserved. Phillips was a popular member of the team, and his eye for written detail never failed to prove critical to a case. DS Kate Umshaw, with the help of her three daughters, had made cake. 

The promotion had given Will a positive push. At thirty-two, he was doing well, and pay rises were few and far between these days. It had been a toss-up between him and Kate, but HQ believed she hadn’t been a DS for long enough to make the leap to DI. Kelly felt her junior’s disillusionment: they were the same age. But then Kelly had no kids. It wasn’t an excuse, but three girls between the ages of thirteen and sixteen was no picnic, and many times Kate had turned in looking as though she’d locked herself in a wardrobe and started a fight. She had dark circles under her eyes, and she smoked heavily. Kate wasn’t a poor operator; Kelly had just been lucky. Her promotion in London had been quick, and she was handling three murder cases a week there while a DS in the Lakes might handle one in a lifetime. 

Their attention turned to what they might expect over the Christmas period. They fully anticipated plenty of GBH and disturbances of the peace, but the bulk of those would fall to the uniforms. Detective work usually dropped off, except for domestics and suicides. Kelly fully expected it to be quiet. 

She then announced the desperately sad conclusion of the Jenna Fraser case to the team.

‘It’s not the outcome we were hoping for, but the pathology report is watertight. Rob, any news on Blackman’s computer?’ She couldn’t help but move on quickly. They’d put so many resources into investigating Jenna’s death that, as was always the case with a minor, they’d exhausted themselves emotionally and mentally. Now they had to focus on other things, and it wouldn’t be easy. She had to distract them.

Their most active case right now was the arrest of Keswick teacher Tony Blackman. He’d been reported by a pupil at his school for luring her to his apartment, where he’d allegedly groped her. Upon further investigation, police had found indecent images of children on his computer, alongside the addresses and ages of others. Unfortunately, the case was a constant reminder of Jenna, because she’d attended the same school: the Derwent Academy. Kate’s girls went there too. It was difficult sometimes when cases overlapped and there was personal involvement, but it happened. Cumbria was a sparsely populated county and people knew one another. The school was going through a tough time, that was for sure.

‘Seventy-nine indecent images, fifteen of them of the highest category. CPS says they’re interested, and I’ve got the green light to put the case together.’

‘And we have his confirmed DNA all over the keyboard? What about the hard drive?’ Kelly sounded as though she knew what she was talking about, but in fact she knew little about the workings of a computer, which was why she’d selected Rob to take the case with Will. Things were going to get technical, and they were her geeks.

‘It’ll take time. There are several unusual firewalls installed and some serious threats of multi-systemic contamination,’ Rob said.

They looked at him. He smiled. ‘Sorry, I’ll let you know as soon as the computer people get back to me. Let’s just say that the brain of the computer is protected and doesn’t like being picked apart. It needs to be done methodically – which means slowly – or we might lose everything.’

‘Great,’ Kelly said. Proving ownership in an indecent image case was fundamental. ‘Will, what do you make of the stored details? Potential targets or what?’ She was referring to the files on the teacher’s computer detailing every aspect of the lives of several children who were all in foster care.

‘As a teacher, he has access to secure files at the local education authority that Joe Bloggs on the street couldn’t read, so he could sell on the information, or plan to use it himself. The youngest child is only two years old.’

‘Christ.’ Kelly vocalised everybody’s thoughts. No matter how much one studied human psychology, paedophilia just wasn’t rational. ‘Let’s see,’ she said. Will passed her the file. The others munched cake and waited.

‘What’s up, guv?’ Will asked.

‘We know this boy.’

They all stopped eating and looked at her.

‘Remember the baby left outside the White Lion pub in Patterdale two years ago? The nurses at the Penrith and Lakes called him Baby Dale. His mother was found close to death in the Greenside lead mine behind Glenridding. She disappeared from hospital.’

‘Bloody hell, you think this is him?’ Kate asked.

‘I know it’s him. He was granted asylum and put into foster care. The surname he was given was Prentice, after the judge presiding over his case. It touched a few heart strings. I got a friend at the Old Bailey to let me know how he was getting on. He was placed with a family back here in Cumbria.’

‘We need to find out if he’s OK,’ Kate said.

‘Agreed. Check that out, will you?’ 

Kate nodded. The room was more subdued after the news and the flashback to one of the nastiest cases they’d cracked. It had turned out that the mother was a refugee from Sarajevo who’d paid somebody in good faith to get her to Britain. As of today, she still hadn’t been traced. Her husband, Nedzad Galic, was also said to have travelled to the UK at the same time, but he hadn’t been traced either. 

‘We’ll need to check all the names on that list to see if their guardians have noticed or reported anything suspicious.’ 

So far, Blackman’s defence was that the pornographic images had been planted by the pupil, whom he’d innocently invited to his flat to borrow a poetry book. Their profile of the girl was a fairly negative one, but that didn’t mean she was lying. It wasn’t a clear-cut case, and that bothered Kelly. When she’d first met Blackman, he’d come across as a decent man: hard-working, committed and polite. Sometimes you just couldn’t work people out, but the CPS saying they were interested meant that that was exactly what they’d have to do. They’d already established that Tony Blackman had taught Jenna Fraser, but they had to try to put that to the back of their minds and separate the cases in their heads. It wasn’t easy.

Tony Blackman had been suspended indefinitely from the Derwent Academy, where he worked in the English department, while the case against him progressed. It was big news in the local press and the guy had been hounded.

‘What’s the school like, Kate?’ Kelly asked.

‘It struggles with discipline issues and drug use is rife, according to the girls. I’m not sure that the teachers have a handle on things. The girls also told me that rumour has it that suicide is now the new cool. There were two other kids a few years ago,’ Kate said.

Members of the team shook their heads. Kelly’s insides stirred and she wondered if the gossip would be the same if she showed pictures of Jenna Fraser’s broken body in assembly. 

‘Suicide cool? Jesus,’ she said.

‘The girls can be overdramatic, but they said that another girl and a boy died before they were there. I haven’t looked into it. It could easily be urban myth.’

‘Well let’s find out, for God’s sake!’ Kelly said.

There was an awkward pause, and Kate said she’d go and make the phone call to find out about Dale Prentice. Doubtless she’d squeeze in a fag break too. Kelly looked around the table.

‘Why are you all staring at me? Don’t you think it weird that the school is haemorrhaging kids? I want to know why, and whether we can launch an investigation.’

Her usual cool had deserted her. Everybody had a bee in their bonnet about Jenna Fraser, but Kelly was taking it personally. Maybe it was because parenthood was a sensitive subject at the moment; maybe it was because Ted had described the girl’s injuries in such detail. Maybe it was because she gave a shit.

‘Emma, find out if there’s any truth to the other deaths. I want to know. And I want to know if Blackman taught those pupils too.’

She got up and walked towards the window. The rooms were all airless and dim at this time of year. Only an artificial yellow hue gave them any semblance of light. They were like vampires, arriving in the dark and leaving in the dark. Kelly took a few deep breaths. Kate came back into the room stinking of cigarettes.

‘As far as the authorities know, Dale Prentice is fine and at home. He attends the Little Fellwalkers Nursery in St Bees.’

‘Good.’ Kelly breathed a little easier. ‘OK, I’m on duty over Christmas. Will, it’s your turn for New Year. What are we all doing for Christmas?’ She was trying to recapture the spirit of goodwill that had been in the room before she’d brought up Jenna Fraser and the subject of death.

‘I’ve got the family this year.’ Kate spoke first.

‘What was it at last count? Fifteen?’ asked Will.

Kate rolled her eyes. ‘Christ, good luck with that. The girls will help, right?’

‘Kind of, in between fighting over phone chargers and showers.’ 

The atmosphere relaxed again and Kelly listened to everyone talking about their families. She felt a pang of guilt that she hadn’t provided her own mother with the pleasure of grandchildren, but her sister Nikki more than made up for it with three of her own. And when Kate got started on one of her tales about A&E and chest infections, or long journeys, or clothes shopping, Kelly didn’t feel as though she was missing out one bit. Josie was handful enough; Kelly couldn’t imagine three of them.

‘Rob? What are you up to?’

‘I’m taking Mia to a lodge in Buttermere.’ He smiled, and the team spotted the fleeting glaze of pure love. They smiled back at him and he snapped out of his haze. Kelly laughed.

‘You bloody romantic!’ 

Rob shook his head, mortified that he’d let his guard down. He blushed a little and reached for more cake.

‘Don’t go making any babies. They’ll ruin your life.’ Kate did this now and again. Her black humour was used in particularly stressful times when she was struggling with the girls. By all accounts, her husband was useless and spent most of his time at the pub watching Sky Sports. They’d been childhood sweethearts. Nobody at Eden House had met him, but then they all kept their private lives very much out of the office. 

‘No, he’s just going to practise.’ Will said what everyone else was thinking. It worked, and the air was cleared.

‘Will?’

‘Just me and the missus this year – pure bliss. I’m locking the doors on Christmas Eve and not coming out again until I’m back on shift.’

‘Same advice, pal.’ Kate chipped in again.

‘What about you, guv?’

‘I’m hosting. Just my mum and … a few friends.’

They all knew Johnny. He’d become quite a local celebrity, as well as helping out Eden House several times, albeit unofficially. But their boss was fiercely private. They knew that her father was no longer alive, and that her mother had a few health issues, but apart from that, the most they knew about Kelly Porter was that she was the first one in the office, and the last one to leave. And she had no kids.

If you like what you've read about this book so far, follow the rest of the blog tour now for more reviews, excerpts and interviews.

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