I think I just found a new favourite author.

‘Hide and Seek’ completely gripped my attention and I read it from cover to cover over a day and a half. It would have been even less, but I have three small children who like attention. (Did I say like? I meant insist upon.)

What’s it about?

DI Helen Grace has fallen rather spectacularly from grace. Locked up in Holloway, on remand for three murders, and loathed by most of the prison population, (particularly those she put away,) it seems Helen’s life can’t get much worse. Then it does.

When a mutilated body is found in the cell next door, staying alive until her trial seems even less likely, unless Helen can find one particular murderer in a prison full of them.

What’s it like?

Gritty. Absorbing. Unputdownable.

Arlidge weaves together a compelling tale from the first moments when we meet Leah, a vulnerable prisoner seeking sanctuary, to the final carefully considered pages, which impart one last delicious chill.

The pace is always swift and sure as the scintillatingly short chapters shift our perspective from Helen’s experiences to those of other inmates, the prison director, the prison chaplain, and even the killer. Arlidge handles the narrative brilliantly, opening each short chapter in the thick of the action, closing each one with a sense of escalating foreboding. You’ll think you know who did it; the odds are you’re wrong.

Just perfect.

Final thoughts

The whole concept of trying to solve a crime in a prison is brilliant, forcing Helen to consider several times that she is relying on the help of convicted killers to help her catch, erm, a killer.

Arlidge creates a deeply chilling environment in which many of the most interesting characters are simultaneously vulnerable and vicious; we can empathise with these women, many of whom are depressed ‘lifers’ with bereft families themselves, even if we cannot imagine ever entering their world.

I loved this book and will definitely be seeking out Arlidge’s other books featuring DI Helen Grace. My only regret is not starting with the first in the series, ‘Eeny, Meeny’, because although ‘Hide and Seek’ works absolutely fine as a standalone story, obviously the sheer fact that the book opens with Helen in prison means that I will have some inkling about how the preceding book in the series, ‘Little Boy Blue’ is likely to end…

Highly recommended for all crime fans, but especially those who love gritty crime dramas with a touch of the macabre.

‘Hide and Seek’,
M. J. Arlidge,
Penguin, 2016, paperback