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.