Broken Girls by Joy Kluver

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on book two in the DI Bernie Noel series by Joy Kluver, Broken Girls. As it is released today it’s a very happy publication to Joy, and thanks to publisher Bookouture for the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 27 July 2021
Publisher: Bookouture

About the Book

Brambles catch her dress, scratch her legs. She has no option but to go barefoot if she’s going to escape. They’d been laughing a few minutes before, but things can change in the blink of an eye…

The woman is young, judging by the short red dress, and dark-haired. Any other signs of her identity have been erased during her long wait to be found, but it’s clear she has been strangled: this was a vicious and personal murder.

D.I. Bernadette Noel knows that every second counts if they are to catch this killer, but they have no leads – until the discovery that the dead woman’s rings match a stolen property report, and the rings’ owner mentions a missing Italian au pair.

Then a shocking discovery about their victim – and the news that another girl, also young and dark-haired, has been abducted – changes everything the team thought they knew about the case.

Piecing together witness statements, Bernie notices key similarities between the description of the person last seen with their murder victim, and someone the missing girl was messaging online. She is convinced they’re looking at the same perpetrator – and if that’s the case, Bernie’s job is no longer just to catch a killer: it’s to save a life.

With few options left, and time running out, she makes a desperate plan. She’ll risk everything on one shot to force their suspect’s hand and push him into making a mistake. But traps need bait – and if her plan fails, a third girl could die…

A gripping crime thriller with a nail-biting climax. If you like Angela Marsons, Susie Steiner or D.S. Butler, you’ll love Joy Kluver.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed meeting Bernie and her new team in the Wiltshire Constabulary in Last Seen, so was curious to see what kind of case might be next on the list for them to get their teeth into. In this case it turns out to be murder, the death of a young woman who it is not going to be easy to identify. It should be a straightforward murder investigation, as much as these things ever are, but then life would be dull if everything was that plain sailing wouldn’t it?

If felt like a slightly different Bernie Noel that we were faced with this time around. New to her role, in the previous book she had seemed quite flighty, quick to judgment and impetuous. She’s definitely found her feet this time around, a solid flow to her investigation and a real sense of bonding with her team. There are a few notable exceptions and a few role reversals. People who were previously a point of conflict now seem to be a very useful ally, but then there are still one or two who are hell bent on making Bernie’s life difficult, introducing a conflict from within that adds to the tension from the investigation. I certainly felt more settled with Bernie this time, her attitude a little less spiky, even though she is prone to the occasional show of temper. Probably a character trait I can identify with a little too easily …

The investigation takes readers all over the place and whilst we have a large pool of potential suspects, each on in turn seems to have an unbreakable alibi. There is a mystery man, the one they believe to be the murderer, but the author keeps their identity well hidden, and also their motivation. This isn’t as obvious a case as you might think in the beginning and there are a number of red herrings and dodgy goings on that serve to suitably muddy the waters.

It definitely feels like the characters are growing with each new book. Aside from Bernie, I’m really growing to like her partner in crime-solving, DS Kerry Allen, a woman who may be short of stature but definitely large in character. The rest of the team are starting to come into their own as well, and despite how things were left at the end of Last Seen, the return of a familiar face certainly spices up Bernie’s personal life.

I had guessed a small element of the story early on – blame my suspicious mind – but this is a story with many threads and tugging on each one sees your absolute surety about whodunnit slowly unravel. Even then you think you know, think you have all the answers now, there are still surprises to come, Joy Kluver choosing to drip feed them throughout the book, right up to the very last page in fact.

If you like a solid police thriller with characters who are really starting to make their mark, and a story which will have you puzzled, frustrated and surprised in equal measure then this may be the book for you.

About the Author

Joy Kluver has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. More recently she’s been escaping the madness of motherhood by turning her hand to crime novels. A book blogger, she’s also part of the First Monday Crime team and if you’ve been to any of their events it’s likely you’ve eaten one of her cookies. She also organises author talks for her local library. Joy lives in SW London with her husband and three children.

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