". . . an exceptional novel and worthy series opener."– Kirkus Reviews
An amateur English sleuth ties a couple of baffling deaths to a religious commune in this ninth outing of a thriller series.
On a rainy November night, a car runs Haszard and his girlfriend Sabrina off the road. The driver doesn’t stop but apparently leaves a second victim: another car in much worse condition than the couple’s. The injured man behind the wheel, whom Haszard learns is Colin Masters, eventually dies. A drug addict who disappeared a year ago, Colin had a trunkful of cannabis and, Haszard surmises, was the unknown driver’s intended target. Even more telling is that Colin lived in Frinton, the same village where local vicar George Ealham burned to death—inside a locked church with no sign of a heat source. Though Haszard works in health care, he often solves mysteries on the side and, at the behest of George’s widow, June, agrees to look into the vicar’s unexplained demise. Haszard somehow links both deaths to a religious commune, which he accordingly scrutinizes with help from Sabrina and their myriad friends. They lock onto a few suspects but unfortunately can’t prevent the discovery of more bodies before the investigation’s over. Whereas earlier books in Hatt’s (The Ambiguity of Guilt, 2017, etc.) series featured a handful of sometimes distracting subplots, the latest is much more focused. Haszard and company examine everything, from exploring how George died (if not spontaneous combustion) to essentially putting the commune under surveillance. The only subplot, in fact, provides relief from the meticulous probe—a friend’s attempt to seduce Haszard understandably prompts drama —and later has unforeseen consequences that may affect the case. Humor is dry and likewise welcome; charming cohort Grace admits once belonging to a cult because she “had a couple of weeks spare” and “thought that it would be an experience.” The killer isn’t a surprise, but the final act, with good guys and gals in peril, is teeming with suspense.
The recurring detective and his delightful band of cronies lead a sharp, absorbing mystery.
In this entry of Hatt’s (No Reason for Insanity, 2015, etc.) thriller series, Haszard searches for a dead man whose widow is sure she’s spotted him alive and well.
Haszard makes his living working at a hospital and running his own framing shop. But his time as an amateur sleuth, often done as favors, is what puts him in danger. When friend and former co-worker Alice Kirby sees her late husband, Graham, in a crowd, she goes to known puzzle-solver Haszard for answers. Graham died in a pileup less than a year prior, his charred body not easily identifiable. Only one of two DNA tests confirmed it was Graham, while the other showed a discrepancy. Haszard talks to a number of Graham’s associates and soon suspects that the man’s death was a sham, likely somehow connected to his involvement in something nefarious. What that illicit deed (or deeds) is, Haszard doesn’t immediately know. But he’s clearly making someone nervous, as one person he intends to interview turns up dead, followed by the protagonist scuffling with a mysterious figure—possibly the murderer. With assistance from his girlfriend, Sabrina, her baby sister, Adelaide, and other cohorts, Haszard delves into an unsolved, possibly relevant robbery, dabbles in a little breaking and entering, takes on another case, and even stumbles upon a second body. The author’s third outing with his mononymous (to readers, at least) hero features a bevy of characters entangled in the case, be they Haszard’s aides or suspects. It’s occasionally overwhelming, with Haszard rarely interrogating people or breaking into flats without two or more tagging along, including pal Grace and master of disguise Millie. Hatt, however, well incorporates Haszard’s extra case: Samantha Cole wants to know how an apparent drowning victim is still alive. It’s much better than subplots in preceding series entries, ultimately inciting a breakthrough in the Alice case, in which Sam lends a helping hand. The protagonist debating whether or not to vocalize the L-word with Sabrina is both endearing and funny. But the most amusing bits entail Haszard’s conspicuous discomfort around children, lifting Alice’s 3-year-old son based on “a right and wrong way of picking dogs up.”
A standard mystery, boosted by an entertaining quasi-detective and his unorthodox ways.
Searching for a rumored treasure puts a man and his friends in danger when an unknown party joins the hunt in the second of Hatt’s (A Light in the Darkness, 2013, etc.) thriller series.
It’s business as usual for Haszard, who runs a framing shop. A recent job, however, catches girlfriend Sabrina’s attention: the piece to be framed is an old map of the area where her grandparents grew up. The map also reminds Sabrina of a reputed treasure involving her grandmother’s ancestors. Back in the mid-19th century, two lovers ran off together with their families’ valuables. They left clues about the location of the stashed jewelry, hoping the feuding families would unite to find the loot. Haszard and Sabrina try making sense of cryptic passages on the map; but someone else also wants the riches. Haszard suspects they’re being followed, and soon his suspicions are confirmed when strangers break into both his shop and house. While Haszard and Sabrina’s treasure hunt seems to be the main plot, there’s a (mostly) competing storyline featuring Haszard as a detective of sorts. A bogus website advertises Haszard’s investigative services. He eventually learns it’s a prank, which he tells a woman responding to the ad, though the pseudo-client still hires him. These investigations—one follows an allegedly adulterous spouse—have only a slight connection to the treasure hunt and tend to stall the action. The search for the jewelry, however, is certainly diverting, and readers will delight in the couple solving each riddlelike passage. And the search, which friends ultimately join, is irrefutably perilous: the baddies, in due course, make their presence known, and Haszard receives a knock on the noggin (courtesy of walking into what he believes is a home invasion)—a frighteningly realistically described injury that leaves him sidelined and hurting.
The multiple plots don’t always mesh or engage, but the central storyline will hook readers.
An Englishman looking into a friend’s murder stumbles upon drug deals and dealers, putting himself and others in peril in Hatt’s debut thriller, the first in a series.
Anesthetic and recovery practitioner Haszard (he prefers not using his first name, which is never given) hears of a murder near the hospital where he works. The victim was Pauline Vickers, a nurse and Haszard’s acquaintance; they also had a one-night stand. Now Haszard is determined to find her killer. But questioning associates uncovers more questions: He’d never known Pauline to do drugs, yet he learns she was a cocaine user with a sizable stash and was telling others of a possible shipment. Haszard’s investigation, with help from his new love interest, Sabrina, and Pauline’s boyfriend, Ed, leads to more bodies, a hodgepodge of suspects—including the hospital’s chief of security, who warns him to stop with the gumshoe routine—and someone shooting at Haszard. At its core, Hatt’s novel is a typical detective story, but the atypical investigation from a nondetective gives it a refreshing vibe. Thriller fans will recognize many elements—the mysterious villain, a drug dealer known only as “The Ghost” who’s supplying people with a high-grade cocaine, and Haszard’s gradual distrust of others, even those who’re helping him. But the story has just as many unusual characteristics: This “detective” has a strange predilection for snakes and fears running into his ex, Debbie, or her equally intense friend, Harriet, just as much as the murderer. He stakes out a suspect’s home, only to be bored for a couple of uneventful evenings. Some of Haszard’s interrogations become repetitive, though, since the info he picks up is much of the same: Many inform him of Pauline’s drug habit or her surprising affiliation with prostitutes. But, with consistent reminders of the ongoing case, Hatt steers his story clear of any lulls, even when Haszard is spending his time entangled in his new romance with Sabrina. Hatt also excels at generating suspense, as in a scene in which Haszard, Ed and Ed’s cohorts chase a man into an old building with dilapidated, unstable floors.
Familiar genre traits coupled with innovative touches make this an exceptional novel and a worthy series opener.