Helen Cadbury

Race to the Kill by Helen Cadbury

Title – Race to the Kill

Author – Helen Cadbury

Published – 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

After reading Helen’s other books in the Sean Denton series I met Helen at a number of book events and we became friends in the way that you do these days in a mix of real life and social media settings. Sadly Helen died in 2017, before the publication of what is now the final book in the series. This therefore makes the book a very difficult one to review – so no ‘star ratings’ in this case.

There are a number of reasons that this series stands out for me:- the unusual hero in Sean Denton, who started the books as a dyslexic PCSO, the beautiful writing which you don’t necessarily expect in crime fiction, and finally the social commentary and values, which if you’ve read Helen’s obituary linked above you will see were very important to her. An excellent example of using a popular genre to explore social issues. The stories always take place with a ‘small town’ setting, the characters literally rub shoulders with each other on the High Street – much more relatable than plots that cross countries or counties.

In this book the body of a refugee is found in the abandoned building of Chasebridge High School, somewhere that appears to have been a temporary home for many of the town’s homeless. As with the earlier books in the series there are several main plot lines – we also have a young woman who is working at the greyhound track neighbouring the old school, living in a caravan in the grounds she is surrounded by a family of shady characters who run the track.

Denton has some personal issues to address – his new relationship with his half-sister and the complicated relationship he has with his seriously-ill father as well as some worries about his love life. In better news he’s getting another step up the career ladder as he moves from PC to DC. He’s a lovely main character and one that you really root for in every situation.

The plots are cleverly developed, there are some surprises along the way and there is a thrilling climax. You should read the whole series.

I will miss Sean – I hope he continues to keep the people of Doncaster safe.

 

The Sean Denton series by Helen Cadbury

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…

51za8fa5+nLThe 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.

51euDYPsA1LIn 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.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy of the book. You can follow Helen on twitter and she is in the middle of a series of events to promote Bones in the Nest.

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