Kate Rhodes: Crossbones Yard (2012)

Crossbones Yard

When I reviewed Nicci French’s third Frieda Klein novel two weeks ago, Alex (Thinking in Fragments) mentioned Kate Rhodes’ Alice Quentin series as being similar and just as good. Of course, I had to get the first in the series Crossbones Yard and read it right away. Reading a new author with a favourite one in mind is often an unfortunate thing, but not in this case. I noticed similarities – a well-described London setting – one protagonist is a psychoanalyst, the other a psychologist – they both work for the police – they both get in trouble – they both have family issues and loyal friends – the pacing is similar and so is the knack for a strong plot. The best news is—Kate Rhodes’ book is still different enough to be interesting. I think one reason is that Alice is at least ten years younger than Frieda. She sounds and feels younger. She goes clubbing and drinks too much on occasions. She’s a professional, but she’s working for a hospital, not for herself, like Frieda. The London described in Crossbones Yard is edgier, it also seems bigger, as Kate Rhodes mentions more neighbourhoods.

The novel opens with a prologue. A flashback: an abusive father, a child in hiding. At the beginning of the novel, Alice avoids taking the elevator to her office on the 24th floor. She’d rather jog. Although she’s a successful psychologist, she suffers from claustrophobia. She’s working at a hospital where she has her practice and helps the police. Not surprisingly then, DCI Burns comes to fetch her. He wants her to talk to a man who is in prison for murder but will be released soon. Burns wants Alice to assess how dangerous he really is. She finds him creepy but mentally challenged and doesn’t see him as a risk. Unfortunately, just after he’s been released, a young woman, who’s obviously been held captive, is brutally murdered. Her face and abdomen were carved. Alice finds her body when she goes jogging one evening. The woman’s been dumped on the former burial ground Crossbones Yard. Nowadays it’s just a wasteland and happens to be exactly where Alice goes for her evening runs.

It will not be the last body Alice finds. At the same time she receives threatening letters and Alice knows that whoever kills these women is after her as well.

The book is swarming with suspects and many of them are somehow linked to a couple of serial killers. The husband is already dead but his wife is still serving time and the new murders look strikingly like those they committed.

I really liked Crossbones Yard a great deal in spite of feeling let down by the ending. The red herrings were too obvious; instead of misleading me, they led me to discover the murderer a bit too early. Still, this is a promising beginning to a series and I’m looking forward to read the sequels. Alice is a strong character and her troubled family history adds to her complexity. Another aspect I liked is that the comments Alice makes on psychology and human behaviour are eve more pertinent than those coming from Frieda Klein. And the descriptions of London are fantastic.

18 thoughts on “Kate Rhodes: Crossbones Yard (2012)

  1. Having a protagonist who struggles with her own demons is really something that sets a book like this apart from lesser novels. Alice sounds like such an interesting character. I could forgive a book that contained a mystery that was a little too easy to solve because of this attribute.

    Great review on this one Caroline!

    • Thanks, Brian. She’s a very complex charcater. Sometimes when we read about a flawed psychlogist it can be artificila but in her case, it does work. We accept that she hasn’t worked through all of her issues but is still helping others.

  2. Ok. I’m interested. I hadn’t heard of this series, so it’s a chance to get in on the ground floor. I think I’ll try it. Do you sense that you MAY like this more than the Frieda Klein series?

  3. I’m glad you found another good series. It’s always a bit annoying when the crime is too easy to solve; sometimes the red herrings are completely obvious and act as clues instead. I’m not very good with reading series because I want the protagonist to change over time and in a lot of series the main character stays the same. I started reading the Stephanie Plum series ages ago and by about the fifth book I was done. How many times can a writer recycle the plot and get away with it? 🙂

    • In the case of Stephanie Plum, id’ say at least 20 or even 30 times. I wonder where’s the appeal for the writer? Surprisingly there are series in which the characters develop and evolve. Those are the best of course.
      S.J. Bolton writes one like that. I wonder how this one will go. I loved the way she captured the setting but, as you say, the red herrings were clues.

  4. I’m glad you thought it was worth the effort, Caroline. I agree with your comments about her depiction of London. I simply loved that. The third in the series is out any day now and you’ve reminded me that I must order a copy. I hope you go on and read the second.

  5. Wonderful review, Caroline! Glad to know that you discovered a new series you like very much. Interesting to know that Kate Rhodes makes the reader feel that London is bigger, through her descriptions. Sorry to know that you discovered the ending beforehand – it is so frustrating when that happens. Hope you enjoy the next book in the series too. Happy reading!

    • Thanks, Vishy. It was still a satisfying read.
      The London in this series sounded much more contemporary, tougher and she mentioned more areas.
      Of course I know London’s a big city – for European standards anyway – but Nicci French and Lucie Whitehouse were set in smaller areas.

  6. I might have to try this as I love the Frieda Klein novels and am a sucker for anything with a psychotherapist or a psychologist – though I must say it doesn’t sound as if Alice did a terrifically good job in letting the convict out… Heh. Mind you, Frieda Klein really ought to be struck off for her actions in the first novel by Nicci French, so I guess being flawed or fallible is part of their charm.

    • If you read it, you’ll see that she does things that are far more questionable than letting the guy walk. 🙂 And my biggest criticism – the murderer becomes obvious but I didn’t think he was believable.

  7. I started this earlier in the summer (I was drawn to her newest but like reading mystery series in order), but like every other book I seem to pick up lately it has sat untouched for far too long as I pick up other books….anyway, your post has prompted me to get back to it. For some reason Alice reminds me of Lacey Flint….am curious about the ending now so will keep going to find out, but often I put down weak novels like this to being first in a series and the author working out where she wants to go with it all!

    • I think it’s one of those books you have to read quickly as it has a few flaws towards the end that are best overread. 🙂
      I thought Alice was in the middle between Lacey Flint and Nicci French’s Frieda Klein. I’m curious to find out whether the next will be better.

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