Murder on the Moorland by Helen Cox
Kitt Hartley is a librarian who has adventures – or should that be frequently placed in danger with her friends and in her relationship with Detective Inspector Malcolm Halloran, a police officer working in Yorkshire. Curious, academic and good at research, she helps to solve the mysteries that surround even a peaceful University city. In this third book in the Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mystery series the emphasis is on Halloran, and the brutal murder of his wife some years before. Unsurprisingly he has difficulty in putting the trauma behind him when a murder victim is found showing the same marks as previously seen in the bodies of the earlier women. It is as if the man who is serving a long sentence in prison has reached out to kill again. Although this is the third book in a series, it can definitely be read alone.
As in the first two books, the characters are well drawn and feel very real. This is partly expressed in the dialogue between Kitt and Malcolm, which is flirtatious and loving, despite the difficult situation they find themselves in. When Kitt’s friends and allies get involved, there are some very funny conversions, but nobody ever loses sight of the seriousness of the puzzles they are rushing to solve. Altogether it is a gripping contemporary crime story which is not gory, hard or tough, rather it is a puzzle and a satisfying mystery populated with three dimensional characters of every kind in a well described setting.
The book begins with Halloran driving through the Yorkshire moors to a prison to see someone he never wanted to see again. Jeremy Kerr was a friend and a colleague, but Halloran was the person who spotted the link between the victim and him that led to his conviction for a series of murders. Now the worst has happened – another woman has been found dead, and there seems to be an overlap with the remains of those Kerr had killed. After he has been told, Halloran had raged, and pulled in all his favours to obtain a visit with his old colleague Kerr. Kerr takes the opportunity to taunt Halloran, knowing how painful he finds the whole situation, with the loss of his wife and being betrayed by someone he thought was a friend.
It takes a while for Halloran to track Kitt down, as she felt somewhat abandoned by Halloran’s early morning departure. As soon as she understands the nature of his feelings about the murder in Irendale, she determines to help him in every way, even immediately taking her holiday allocation to accompany him to the village to help with the unofficial investigation. When they arrive they discover how well he is known in the area, and they also realise that investigating without the formal structure of the police is not easy. Fortunately Kitt is a resourceful woman who can work out some obscure clues. Moreover she has friends who become determined to help, and they attempt to do so in their own inimitable way.
This is altogether a very readable book with an intriguing and logical plot. The characters are engaging and variegated, and enjoy a good sense of humour where appropriate.I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a crime novel with clever twists and realistic characters.