Devil’s Table (2021) by Kate Rhodes

St Martin’s, one of the larger of the Scilly Isles, sits covered in a freezing fog. As Christmas approaches, Jade and Ethan Minear decide to sneak out of their house, lured by a mysterious message. The children are attacked – Jade disappears, but Ethan escapes. Traumatised by the experience, Ethan finds himself unable to speak of the events that happened – even when a dead body is discovered.

The Minear family have never been popular on the island, but it seems that someone is actively targeting them, taunting them by leaving ships-in-bottles at the crime scenes. DI Ben Kitto has known the inhabitants of the island all of his life but clearly not as well as he thought he did. As the attacks increase, it seems that no one is safe…

The fifth of the DI Ben Kitto series, following Hell Bay, Ruin Beach, Burnt Island and Pulpit Rock, it follows the life and career of Ben Kitto (duh) who is facing a hurdle in his personal life as the book opens up. Kitto has always kept his feelings to himself, but as his relationship with his partner develops, he finds himself facing his fears or facing losing his relationship. Luckily, there’s usually a murderer around to bring things to a head when a sleuth is having a personal crisis and this is no exception.

That’s being a bit harsh, as this is a gripping read, one of the best in the series. The sense of a community not really knowing where to look for a killer among them works very well, and Kate Rhodes does a good job of making that villain make sense, not just in terms of motive but also in how they have manage to avoid suspicion as the tension mounts. There’s also some excellent misdirection in the final scenes too.

The dual focus works well – short sections focus on Ethan – without the reader questioning (too much) the convenience of Ethan not being able to talk and blocking out the face of his assailant. The cynical reader could also question the behaviour of one character in particular in service to the plot, but the plot moves along at a good speed so that never really occurred to me until hindsight kicked in.

All in all, if you like police procedurals with strong lead characters and plots that keep moving forward, then you could do a lot worse than checking out this series. Oh, and the dog in it is fantastic!

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