It Was Her by Mark Hill

51xUoO6Ye-LDo you want a thriller where nothing is as it seems?

Twenty years ago, Tatia was adopted into a well-off home where she seemed happy, settled. Then the youngest boy in the family dies in an accident, and she gets the blame.

Did she do it?

Tatia is cast out, away from her remaining adopted siblings Joel and Poppy. Now she yearns for a home to call her own. So when she see families going on holiday, leaving their beautiful homes empty, there seems no harm in living their lives while they are gone. But somehow, people keep ending up dead.

Did she kill them?

As bodies start to appear in supposedly safe neighbourhoods, DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley race to find the thinnest of links between the victims. But Drake’s secret past is threatening to destroy everything.

It Was Her begins in much the same way as the first series of Broadchurch. A young boy, Will Bliss, falls from a cliff and nobody is sure about how it happened. That was twenty years ago and the people present, the boy’s brother and sister, Joel and Poppy, and their adopted sister Tatia were so young that their memories of the event have become blurred with the stories they told each other. Will’s parents blamed Tatia and sent her back to her home country of Georgia but even her memories of the day are vague.

The book is not only a mystery as the real events of the day are revealed, but an in-depth examination of what long-term grief can do to a family, especially one that never came to terms with or understood what really happened. The book also shows that grief can manifest in many different ways. For Joel, a visual reminder of the accident caused him to have a breakdown and to obsess about the moment Will fell from the cliff. Tatia is also now back in the UK and is trying desperately to reconnect with her siblings whilst also trying to make a living. But her background and experiences have inadvertently led her to a life of crime and eventually to murder.

Tatia’s involvement in these high-profile murders brings her into contact with DI Ray Drake, a detective who appears to be a model investigator but who is hiding a secret life. This is the second book to feature DI Ray Drake, the first being His First Lie, which was originally published as Two O’ Clock Boy in 2016. The damaged detective with a hidden past is a well-worn trope of the crime genre but here, without giving away the exact details, Drake’s secret is different to anything I’ve read before. It makes him a highly dualistic and unreliable detective that nobody would trust if they knew about his past.

Drake is back working with Flick Crowley, another officer that discovered his secret in the first book and he is now overcome with paranoia that someone else might know. So when Flick starts to date a man she met at her therapist’s office, Drake is immediately suspicious of him, paranoid that it is someone who knows his secret and is trying to get to him. Flick is conflicted because she knows the truth about Drake but she is also loyal to him.

The breakdown, or potential breakdown, of relationships, particularly within the family unit, is a central theme of the book, whether these involve blood relations or not. The book deals with the damaged middle class family who went through any family’s worst nightmare, to the relationship between Drake and his mother, to the relationship between the man Flick is dating and his wife and sons. Secrets are often the central strain on these relationships and everyone in the book has one, even the people who appear to be the most trustworthy. This, which is hinted at in the title of the book, makes the book a complex and compelling read unlike many others within the same genre.

The driving force of the book is Drake and his relationship with Flick as he could lose his temper so easily and reveal his true nature and she could feel threatened and tell someone what she knows. I hope there’s a third book in the series as this relationship is highly unusual and unique.

About the author

91bogKqNxZL._SY600_Mark Hill is a London-based full-time writer of novels and scripts. Formerly he was a journalist and a producer at BBC Radio 2 across a range of major daytime shows and projects. He has won two Sony Gold Awards.

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