Truth Or Dare (2021) by M J Arlidge

There is a crime wave in Southampton – a murder wave, in fact. What could be causing this escalation? It’s almost certainly not the work of one person, as the methods vary from body to body, the victims seem completely unconnected, and motives for their deaths are very thin on the ground. And yet the body count is steadily creeping higher…

DI Helen Grace’s overstretched team is charged with bringing order to the city, but she can barely keep order within the team. With her staunchest lieutenant on maternity leave, and one of her DS’s actively plotting her downfall, how high will the body count get before the killer – or killers – are brought to justice?

Another modern crime police procedural, the tenth in the DI Helen Grace series, but the first that I’ve come across. I tried it as I do like a good procedural and when NetGalley dangled it under my nose, I thought I’d take a look.

It’s an odd book, to be honest. Let’s be clear first off, it was a real page-turner, with a number of very effective thrills, twists and turns, and an interesting central character. I enjoyed it a lot, but I did feel I was missing something.

As I said, this was the first book I’d read in the series and some of the character bits either passed me by emotionally (when one character dies…) or seemed to be rather unrealistic (the plotting by her underling, without anything other than a quick recap of the history between them, seemed rather over the top). Helen’s near isolation within her team would have meant more, I think, if I knew the characters better.

It’s a decision every author has to make with recurring characters. Do you make each book completely standalone, with regards character development, or do you reward the invested reader? Clearly Arlidge has chosen the second option, which I completely understand, but did make me feel that I was not getting the full reward for that aspect of the story.

And I should mention something about the plot – the villain’s plot, that is. It does stretch the bounds of believability that the villain could get everyone to do the things necessary for everything to work. There’s something of the supervillain about the bad guy/girl – I think that I prefer my villains a little more grounded.

This does sound negative, doesn’t it, but believe me, this is an effective thriller, and an enjoyable read, and I certainly wouldn’t rule out coming back to the series to fill in some of the gaps – or to find out what happens next…

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