Her Sister's Shadow by Catherine Wimpeney
Greater Manchester DCI Kay Harris is haunted by the memory of her sister's recent suicide. Concerned for her mental health, her superiors push her into taking some time off. Kay retreats to her family's holiday home in the Scottish Highlands, taking with her, Ava, a young woman she prevented from committing suicide.
Wimpeney is a former mental health nurse and qualified psychotherapist, and used her experience in writing this thriller. The subject matter is fairly heavy, including issues around expectations of women in the workplace, bullying at work, mental health support and trauma recovery, but the book is lightened by a good sense of humour.
As a birdwatcher, I liked the frequent bird based similes that Kay used to describe things, eg "Their phones rang intermittently, like robins marking territories". I was disappointed that this disappeared from the book quite quickly, though perhaps that was a deliberate attempt to add to the sense of Kay's deteriorating mental health.
It's an engrossing read, though slightly uneven (and perhaps could have done with better editing). Definitely worth reading if you're interested in the issues.
The Girl Beneath the Ice by Joseph Darlington
School pupil Tasha Barcroft is found frozen in a river in the middle of a very cold winter. It falls to Inspector Dafydd Todor to find out how she died.
This story focuses on different people in Tasha's life, including her boyfriend Lucas, schoolgirl Frigg who had been bullied by Tasha, Mrs Barcroft, Tasha's grandmother. Did any of these people have motive to kill Tasha or was it in fact Todd, the recluse who lives in a makeshift home in the forest while apparently being employed as a ranger (though he seems to not even know whether he really has a job, making him pretty unbelievable as a character)?
The winter setting is very effectively conveyed through description of the weather and landscape and the book is a real page turner, the reader definitely wants to know what happens next. However, there seemed to be inconsistencies in the plot and in the understanding of the physics of frozen rivers.
Worth a read if you like thrillers set in winter.
Under the Bridge by Jack Byrne
The year is 2004, a body has been discovered in the Liverpool Docklands. Anne McCarthy, a new reporter on a local newspaper, is keen to investigate the case and finds that she has let herself in for more than she bargained for.
The body dates back to the 1970s, a time of industrial strife and smuggling.
By getting involved in the investigations, Anne uncovers hidden histories and secrets and the lives of the Wicklow Boys, a group of men smuggling contraband into the docks. Meanwhile, Anne's friend Vinny, who is starting a research project into what makes up the Liverpudlian identity, starts to question what he knows about hos own family history.
This is a thoroughly researched, tautly written thriller bringing in the history of Irish immigration into Liverpool and questions around Liverpudlian identity, while telling an excellent story.
Under the Bridge by Jack Byrne.
You can read my review of Airedale by Dylan Byford (also published by Northodox) on my Crafty Green Poet blog here.
All four books published (2021) by Northodox Press, a publishing company committed to books from the north of England.
Disclaimer: I won these books in a competition on Twitter.