Kate Rhodes launched her Scilly Isles based crime series at the beginning of this year with “Hell Bay”. I was particularly impressed by the intensity she managed to build up around the location of Bryher, the smallest inhabited island with less than one hundred permanent residents. The ramifications of murder on such a close-knit isolated community were fascinating. Perhaps, understandably, the author has widened her net a little here (she couldn’t keep bumping off those poor Bryher residents) and focused the action on the neighbouring island of Trescoe with double the population and a more touristy feel.
This population begins to decline when a diver is found dead in a cave. An object found jammed in her mouth suggests that this was no accident. D I Benesek Kitto, who grew up on and has now returned to the Scillys, together with Czechoslovakian Wolfhound Shadow (in the course of two novels already up there amongst the best dogs in fiction) are on hand to investigate. We get a first-person narrative from Kitto interspersed with some short third person sections which drive the plot forwards.
It becomes apparent that Jude Trellon, the diver, has been killed because of what she knows about shipwrecks around the coasts of the islands and secrets kept means others are in peril. Kate Rhodes does characterisation very well and as well as developing her human (and canine) characters she is also able to convey the sea convincingly as a main character in the novel, which is like some of the island residents, calm and co-operative one minute and destructive and deadly the next. Atmosphere-wise, however, I do not feel that this has that edgy intensity I enjoyed so much in “Hell Bay” and the plot here did not feel as impressively tight, there did seem to be quite a lot of recapping which affected pace at times but this is a very satisfying crime series and with the next novel “Burnt Island” planned I will certainly be looking out for it.
Ruin Beach was published by Simon & Schuster in hardback in November 2018. The paperback is due in February 2019. Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the review copy.