Author Alison Bruce was new to Auntie M until recently. The author of two non-fiction crime books, Alison lives in Cambridgeshire with her family and turned her hand to fiction, introducing Detective Constable Gary Goodhew, the youngest, and probably brightest, detective in Cambridge’s Parkside Station. Cambridge is a wonderful setting and Bruce does it justice, using the river and its environs to jumpstart a fast-paced mystery that never lets up in her first entry, Cambridge Blue.

After an intriguing prologue, DC Goodhew is first on the scene at Midsummer Common after the body of Lorna Spence is found. Although it’s his first murder case, Goodhew quickly becomes involved, to the chagrin of his new partner, DC Michael Kincaide. Lorna was well-liked and there appears to be no motive for her murder–until a second brutal murder is committed in similar circumstances, kicking the investigation and the pacing into overdrive.

Bruce does a nice job of introducing the other characters in her plot; one who will return besides Goodhew’s partner and his DI, is his grandmother, a spry woman with a wise mind. As the investigation moves along,  Goodhew’s instincts ripen, and despite what we think we know, Bruce manages to surprise her readers with twists and more twists in this agreeable novel.

In her second outing, The Siren, Goodhew forms an unlikely alliance with a young witness. Two young women, Kimberly Guyver and Rachel Golinski have a shared past they thought they’d left behind, until it catches up with them in a startling way, leaving Rachel’s house burned down, and Kimberly’s young son, Riley, missing.

As Goodhew investigates both incidents, he uncovers conflicting stories: Kimberly is distraught but also defensive and at times seems uncooperative to him. Is this the natural result of a life lived in foster homes, suspicious of police and anyone with power, or is it born out of fear that he will find his way to the bottom of the lies she’s told him?  With the life of a young child hanging in the balance, Goodhew races to save lives and almost loses his own in the process.

Bruce does another great job of parsing out Goodhew’s back story whilst showing him maturing and evolving in his job and in his life. One device she shares with her readers is the playlist she listens to whilst writing these novels. These songs keep her company when she’s writing and for her, they “belong” to each novel. I was delighted to read this, as I work in a similar way, with certain pieces of music attaching themselves to a project as I’m writing, which become identified for me with that work and sometimes influence it.

Looking forward to seeing where Bruce takes Goodhew in Cambridge next~

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