No Way Out by Cara Hunter

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No Way Out by Cara Hunter

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: It's the third book in the series but reads perfectly well as a standalone, as I found out. A good read with some elegant twists.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: March 2019
Publisher: Viking
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0241283493

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It was the end of the Christmas holidays and Felix House in an elite area of Oxford was on fire. Two children were dragged from the inferno: one, a toddler, was pronounced dead at the scene and the other, a boy on the cusp of his teens, died in hospital some days later. But where were the parents? Were their bodies in what remained of the house and which was being steadily cleared, or had they left the children at home alone? For DI Adam Fawley it's one of his most disturbing cases. He's still not got over the death of his son and there's every sign that his marriage is on the rocks. For his team, it's just a heartbreaking, exhausting case.

It's long been one of my principles - never join a series that's already established if you're planning on reviewing the book as it might not be fair on the author or the potential reader, but I seem to be breaking it on a regular basis at the moment. This time I didn't realise that it was part of a series until I glanced at the Amazon page after I'd finished reading and I'm grateful I didn't as I might have missed a good police procedural - and a series which I'm likely to follow in future.

It's Oxford, but not the Oxford of Morse. The father of the family involved in the fire, Michael Esmond, is an academic, but that's as close as it gets. This is the non-university, non-tourist side of the city, where people live, work and have mainstream jobs. The city's real and so are the people in the story: the Esmond family come off the page well despite being dead or missing when we meet them as Cara Hunter drip-feeds us what's been happening in their lives over the past nine months or so. It's a device which can go wrong - and normally I don't like it - but it works well here and allows a lot of red herrings to grow to full size. I had just about everybody in the cast pencilled in as the murderer and still managed to get it wrong.

There's an insightful look at a mental-health issue, too. Postnatal depression can be particularly debilitating and is often misunderstood. Hunter deals with it sensitively, but still conveys the impact of the illness well. She's also excellent on grief and particularly the effect of losing a child: the Esmond boys' grandparents have to cope with losing their daughter and grandchildren and the investigation opens Adam Fawley's wound which is perhaps the deepest of all. His son, Jake, committed suicide when he was the same age as the older Esmond boy. Fawley's wife is also coping with the loss of a child - and the fact that Fawley doesn't want to adopt. It could signal the end of the marriage.

The book is very readable: I finished it in a couple of days despite the fact that I really should have been getting ready to go on holiday. I mean, packing wasn't that urgent was it? I'd like to thank the publishers for introducing me to this book and to what looks like a very promising series.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy And So It Begins by Rachel Abbott.

Cara Hunter's DI Adam Fawley Books in Chronological Order

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