Poet Kate Rhodes brings London’s neighborhoods vividly alive to readers in her debut psychological thriller, Crossbones Yard.
These areas, some glitzy and others tawdry, are all known to psychologist Alice Rhodes, whose daily runs take her places that don’t usually faze her, but do give her the endorphin high that keeps her own painful memories at bay. Fighting claustrophobia on a daily basis, she sublimates her nightmares by helping others battle theirs.
Life for Alice includes a busy practice schedule and a brother battling his own demons who often ends up on her doorstep, but it is balanced by a good-looking boyfriend and close friends who care about her. Then one evening run brings complications Alice could never expect. Searching the roads for the quickest way home, Alice sees two ironwork gates she’s never noticed before, decorated with dozens of ribbons, cards and bits of paper.
But it’s what she spies inside that will radically change her life: an open hand reaching out for her through the railing, connected to a fragile wrist and from there to the very dead body of a young woman on the other side of the gate.
This is Crossbones Yard, a former graveyard for prostitutes. Trying to conceal her emotion, the surly detective who shows up and takes Alice home is annoyed at her pretense of composure.
As part of her duties, Alice has just evaluated a convicted killer about to be released from prison at the behest of the overweight DCI Burns. She’s only mildly surprised to find he’s the investigating detective on the case. He has an uncanny knack for getting Alice to do his bidding, and she soon feels as if she’s become his personal research assistant. And that surly detective? He’s Burns’ detective sergeant, Ben Alvarez, and soon Alice finds herself in his company more than she’d like.
Then it becomes apparent that the dead woman’s injuries are vastly similar to those of the style of a team of serial killers. Ray and Marie Benson tortured and killed thirteen women before being caught; five of their victims were never found. Before long, Burns has Alice working on a psychological profile of this copycat killer.
Marie is still alive, languishing in prison. Does she hold the key to this gruesome murder? Will she tell Alice is she does?
And what of Morris Cley, the just-released murderer whom Alice feels is not capable of this kind of planning. Cley lived with the Bensons. How is he connected with the new murders?
With ties to her own background, Alice will find herself and those she loves in jeopardy as this case comes too close to home.
This wonderful debut sports an ending that has a switchback twist that will leave you breathless. With it’s swift pacing and brief, staccato scenes, readers will find themselves swept up into Alice’s story. The plotting is complex, and Alice is a protagonist readers will want to follow.