Ask No Questions

Written by Lisa Hartley — Lisa Hartley is best known for her DS Catherine Bishop books, but here she introduces us to Detective Caelan (pronounced Kay-len) Small, a woman who is happiest when she is being someone else and working deep under cover.

But maybe that sentence should be in the past tense, because Small’s last big operation went horribly wrong, resulting in the deaths of a child and a fellow officer. Meanwhile, the perpetrators vanishing into thin air. She walked away, taking retirement and vowing never to return. But now Seb Lambourne, wanted for double murder, is back, and the phrase ‘never say never’ has never seemed more appropriate.

Caelan is on a solitary holiday in Egypt when she is approached by a familiar face. It’s fellow undercover officer Richard Adamson. He has a proposition for her, sanctioned by the bosses of her shadowy department. The thought of catching Lambourne at last proves too tempting and Small is soon back in the fold, but as things begin to unravel around her, has she made the mistake of her life?

The problem is she always seems to be a step or two off the pace. It looks like someone within the Met is feeding information to Lambourne… and there are a long list of likely candidates. In the meantime, Caelan Small must put herself in the firing line in the hope of getting a result in this most personal of crusades.

At times, Caelan is an interesting character; at other times she is bloody annoying. It’s a tough task to satisfactorily introduce a new character and doubly difficult when you’re working with someone as complicated as this lady. She’s a heady blend of Mata Hari and Juliet Bravo. A committed police officer, her work undercover has dragged her into places that no sane person would go and there are times when you can see those experiences have taken their toll. Fortunately we have a foil to Caelan’s unpredictability, in the shape of ex-soldier Ewan Davies, whose role as her driver soon develops into something much more hazardous. This is a man battling demons of his own, but still willing to go through fire if it will help her out of a tight corner.

Hartley’s Catherine Bishop series is set in Lincolnshire, and we take a fleeting visit to the country in this new book, but the majority of the action takes place in London, and the descriptions of the capital are well drawn, with the city’s seedier side being brought into sharp focus.

There’s plenty of action within the covers of Ask No Questions and the narrative races along, but I felt that some of the more cloak and dagger moments were a little overblown and melodramatic. However, there are twists and turns aplenty to keep you on high alert and I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Small and Davies – a solid centre to a swirling confusion of supporting characters. The big reveals, when they appear, are well executed and neatly disguised.

The cliffhanger ending has set us up nicely for book two in the Caelan Small series. I’m hoping for more revelations about this multi-faceted woman and another appearance from Ewan Davies too.They’re a crime fiction duo worthy of another outing and maybe even a television appearance or two.

There are lots of unpredictable cops like Caelan Small in crime fiction, but two more to try include Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome, and Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole.

Canelo
Kindle
£0.99

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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