Title – To Catch a Rabbit and Bones in the Nest
Author – Helen Cadbury
Published – January & July 2015 respectively (by Allison & Busby)
Genre – Crime fiction
I have a pile of books that lurks on the coffee table the ‘read but not yet reviewed pile’ as it’s known. Much to my shame Helen Cadbury’s excellent debut (To Catch a Rabbit) has been sitting in this very pile since March 2015. I recently got into conversation with Helen on Twitter and as a consequence her publisher sent me the second in the Sean Denton series – Bones in the Nest. So what you’re getting here is a bit of a ‘twofer’ – two reviews for the price of one. Really not sure how this is going to work, but here goes…
The books are police procedurals and when we’re first introduced to Sean Denton in To Catch a Rabbit he is a lowly PCSO, in fact the youngest PCSO in Doncaster. And I have to say that I don’t think I’ve read many crime fiction books where the main character has had this position – within the police force but probably on the very edge of any investigation. This role works well to introduce Denton and he’s an appealing character – eager yet naive, he has an eye for detail and an enthusiasm which is in contrast to some of his more jaded colleagues.
There are two main points of view in this book – Denton’s as he tries to solve the mystery of a woman found dead leaning against an old mobile snack bar, and Karen Freidman’s, a wife and mother who works at the Refugee and Migrants Advice Centre in York and whose brother has disappeared. It’s inevitable that the two characters’ paths will cross but things don’t pan out in quite the way that the reader might expect.
This is a character-led police procedural and I thought it was an excellent debut. The use of Denton’s PCSO position gives him a different perspective on the investigation and he is a character that it’s easy to want to root for – with his dyslexia and his council estate upbringing he is one of the more down to earth investigators in fiction.
In Bones in the Nest Sean is now (potential spoiler alert) a uniformed PC and patrolling the mean streets of Doncaster. The area is seeing some racial tension and only Sean could be called to the scene of an attack on a young Muslim man and then unwittingly attend a meeting of estate residents vowing to keep the place ‘English’.
Sean has to wrestle with some demons from his own past when he ‘reconnects’ with his father and this aspect of the story provides some of the backstory to his relationships. He has some ups and downs and more than his fair share of disciplinary issues at work but nevertheless his eye for detail and enthusiasm for getting the job done are recognised by his superiors. As with its predecessor there is a fair amount of political posturing depicted within the police – a game that Sean isn’t very good at playing.
In this book the alternative point of view is provided by a young woman who has recently been released from prison. Known in the press as the ‘Chasebridge Killer’, she is living under a new name and trying to find her feet at the hostel in York where she has been sent before finding somewhere permanent to live. She is obviously struggling with both her current situation as well as something from her past. She seems to be a mix of both vulnerable and tough – not surprising as she was a teenager when she went to prison. Her voice is quite different to Sean’s and her lack of control over the situations she is put in makes her seem quite fragile.
For me these books strike a really good balance between the personal stories of the characters and the puzzle of the crime fiction elements. I do really like Sean’s character – he is a breath of fresh air compared to the more familiar grouchy old alcoholic detectives and feisty career-minded female counterparts who are more common in crime fiction. Both books also deal with some social issues but these are in a very credible rather than lecturing way.
If you’re looking for some well-written crime fiction with an appealing leading character and a slightly different perspective on the investigation then I highly recommend this series.