All Fall Down by MJ Arlidge.
The ninth DI Helen Grace thriller.
It’s not difficult to see why DI Helen Grace is such a hit with crime readers – unique, an over used term, really does apply to this detective and single minded hardly seems to cover it. This latest in the series is modern and very dark, this is next generation police procedural, fast and hard, brutal and gritty. All Fall Down is a blistering story, it starts with a chilling murder, ends with a desperate chase to save a life and doesn’t pause for breathe in between. This novel is genuinely creepy, a white knuckle ride of a read. Arlidge is a fan of sharp cutting, of short scenes that propel the narrative. There’s a constant sense of menace on the page, and yet, in all the fun there’s plenty of time to get to know Grace and her relationship to the world, her personal life is intriguing. But it all starts with murder:
‘You have one hour to live’
It’s stark but the concept sounds pretty straightforward; a would be killer threatening the victim, only sixty minutes to live, the clock’s ticking. However, it isn’t as simple as that, Arlidge has a twist on the theme and that makes this a much more interesting read, the hunt is more complex from an early deviation in plot. When a young successful man is killed it’s so calculating and meticulously planned that Grace can’t help thinking it’s not over. However, there are few leads to go on and the killer always seems to be one step ahead of the game. It’s not long before the connection to a high profile cold case emerges – a killer that got away.
Justin Lanning is alone in the Redstone Solutions office, it’s 17.58pm, he’s counting down the minutes, two to go to the end of his twelve hour shift. With a bit of luck he can get home before Adam and get a work out in. There’s been a lot of tension between the two of them lately. By 6pm he’s on his way down when the lift dies, no power. He presses the emergency button, there’s nothing to do but wait. Then an unidentified call comes through on his mobile, he assumes it’s the engineer and starts talking about being trapped but initially there’s no reaction at the other end of the line. Then finally a soft voice says;
“You have one hour to live.”
It spooks Justin, he rings Adam, who is initially sceptical, suggesting they meet at home asap so they can figure this out. Justin could ring the police, he’s genuinely scared, but what would he say? Then the lift starts up again. The company limo service is waiting for him as usual, he gets in the car at 18.08pm, Justin presses the intercom and tells the driver to take him home. He starts to relax, then the car drives past his turn off and the driver won’t respond to his instructions to turn the car around…
DI Helen Grace and DS Joseph Hudson, Southampton central major incidents team, are lovers, racing home, he’s desperate to keep up but she has the more powerful bike, grace likes to be pushed but she likes to win. She likes that he’s competitive but is there something more between them? Next morning she’s milling that over when DC Bentham calls, they’ve found a body at a building site. The wallet says Justin Lanning, a name she knows instantly, everyone in Southampton knows it. Lanning was the victim of a school trip kidnapping when he was seventeen. He and four other Duke of Edinburgh Award students were taken by Daniel King, the children were tortured before four of them escaped with their lives but classmate Rachel wood wasn’t so lucky. When Grace talks to Justin’s partner Adam she realises that the phone call he received before dying was the killer, this was organised, planned, almost an execution.
Maxine Pryce, one of the original kidnap victims, is releasing a book about it, could that be connected? Journalist Emelia Garanita’s eyes light up when she finds out who the victim is, she did her best to worm her way into the original kidnap investigation all those years ago. Now the possibility that Daniel king is back, is irresistible. What if he’s intent on finishing what he started? Then a second person gets a phone call…
“You have one hour to live”
All Fall Down is a creepy murder mystery with plenty of twists and misdirection as Arlidge ramps up the tension, the denouement is nail biting. Helen Grace has a complicated personal life which is skilfully woven into the narrative and several of the characters are put through the wringer in this story. The pressure to get a result and the personal tensions in the team are palpable.
This is a police procedural for fans of the genre who want something up to the minute – a page turner. Arlidge has worked in television, this story and character would make a great series.
Orion hardback 11/6/20 ISBN 9781409188407

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