Today I am sharing my thoughts on In Too Deep, the brand new novel from Simon McCleave which is out now. I’ve heard the author speak about this series on a couple of panels now at Bloody Scotland and Newcastle Noir and admit to being very intrigued. It’s moderately local to me being set just up the road (sort of) in North Wales, and although book two in the series I jumped straight in. My thanks to publisher Avon for the advance copy. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Some secrets should stay buried for ever…
Two months since ex-Police Negotiator Laura Hart was forced back into action after her son’s kidnap, she has re-joined the force as a DI. On her first day, an anonymous tip-off leads to the discovery of a skeleton in a crumbling castle ruin near the seaside town of Beaumaris, Anglesey.
Laura can’t wait to prove herself by solving the case and when the investigation leads her to MI5 and the Real IRA, she knows she’s on the trail of something truly explosive.
But some people will do anything to stop their secrets coming out – as the rising body count shows. With the threat drawing in and her family yet again in danger, this time, is Laura in too deep?
I really rather enjoyed this. I know I have gone true to form and am reading the books out of order, but as I had heard the basic premise of book one at the literary festivals last year, I don’t think I was really at a disadvantage by reading book two first. It is a standalone mystery and, whilst there are certain threads which carry between the books, there was nothing that I couldn’t pick up, or that I believe would act as necessarily a spoiler in book one. If you want that absolutely fresh, no knowledge of what has come before approach though, obviously start at the beginning. I like to live on the wild side when it comes to reading 😋
The book starts on a cold dark night, building the intrigue and the mystery from the very beginning. There is something which occurs that is going to be central to the whole story, even though it takes twenty years for this deed to be uncovered. Told over a dual timeline, this book takes readers between present day Anglesey where DI Laura Hart is about to face her first day with the Anglesey CID, and late 90’s Belfast. How the two elements of the story tie together remains to be seen, but Simon McCleave spins a very twisty and unexpected tale that moves between political tensions, personal rivalries and old scores to be settled. There is an undercurrent of threat from the very beginning, and whilst it’s never quite in the high-octane thriller genre, there are some scenes which get the pulse racing and the anticipation increasing as we follow the investigation to its very surprising conclusion.
I really liked Laura Hart as a character. There are elements to her character that set her apart from your normal Detective, but not so much that she becomes either a cliche or an unbelievable character. She is all too recently widowed, and that grief and the way she deals with it, does come to inform the story and the way her character develops over the course of the book. There are insecurities there, not only because she is starting back at work after a sabbatical, but it only made me like her more. She has everything and nothing to prove, but it still makes for an interesting return being thrown into a cold case one day one. She is fun, and funny, and her pairing with DC Andrea Jones really works well, the experience of the more senior Hart a perfect match for the determination and enthusiasm of the younger DC. Then there is DI Gareth Williams, technically Laura’s superior in this particular investigation, but an equal in all other respects. there is a great chemistry between them, although Gareth’s personal life is as damaged and complicated as Laura’s. I like them as a pair, and I’m intrigued to see how this develops over the course of the series.
I enjoyed how the author has woven past and present together to ensure that the readers learn just enough about the past of the suspected victim, John Finn, but still managing to keep the mystery and the truth hidden until the end. I had perhaps guessed one key part of the puzzle relatively early on, but there are plenty of unexpected revelations to come. The author has done a great job of capturing the tensions and political division that the Good Friday Agreement caused, even though it was meant to be a symbol of peace. It served as a stark reminder of the tensions in Northern Ireland in the 90’s and earlier, and the importance of the agreement which is still all too fragile due to current events. He does not sensationalise the violence or the devastation felt in Northern Ireland, but you do feel the weight of its importance to what comes to pass.
The pacing in this book is just right, and the sense of place quite key. From the tranquility of Laura’s morning swim in the sea, to the overt threat that she faces as someone tries to derail her investigations, you can feel those variations in tempo and mood with each page turn. It was a very interesting read as the more I read, the more uncertain I became about my feelings towards the victims and I love those books that can do that. a very enjoyable read and I’ll be going back to book one just as soon as I can. I’ve also downloaded a few of the books from the author’s other series too which I’m looking forward to reading. Another perspective on the holiday locations of my youth! Recommended.
About the Author
Simon McCleave is a bestselling crime novelist. His first book, The Snowdonia Killings, was released in January 2020 and soon became an Amazon bestseller, reaching No. 1 in the Amazon UK Chart and selling over 150,000 copies.
Before he became an author, Simon was a script editor at the BBC and a producer at Channel 4, before working as a Story Analyst in Los Angeles. Throughout his career he has worked on films such as The Full Monty and television series such as Silent Witness, Murder In Suburbia, Teachers, The Bill, Eastenders and many more. His Channel 4 film ‘Out of the Game’ was critically acclaimed and described as ‘an unflinching portrayal of male friendship’ by Time Out.
Simon lives in North Wales with his wife and two children.