The Ash Lake Murders by Helen H. Durrant

Title: The Ash Lake Murders (Detective Alice Rossi #1)

Author: Helen H. Durrant

Published on: 24 March 2022

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers | Police Procedural

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Callum is lured into an isolated boathouse by a woman and is killed. A part of his dismembered body is put in a bag and thrown into the lake while the remaining parts would go into a bag which will then make its way to a landfill. The killer is out for revenge. She has a grudge against someone and wants them to find her. She knows they won’t. After all, she’s been killing for the past six years and her arch-nemesis hasn’t found her yet.

When Callum’s mum files a missing person’s report, the local police do not take it seriously. After all, Callum is an adult and can go away for days on his own will. But things take a turn for worse when another body is found in the retreat from which Callum initially went missing. Then there is the matter of a tweet – a tweet addressed to DCI Alice Rossi… by the killer.

My favorite author Helen Durrant has written a new series and frankly, it was a long wait until publication day. As soon as I saw it on the KU catalog, I knew I had to borrow and read it!

I have been a huge fan of Helen Durrant’s writing ever since I read The Faceless Man (my first Durrant novel.) I have been following her Calladine and Bayliss series and I absolutely love it! I was excited to hear Helen’s coming up with a new police procedural series featuring DCI Alice Rossi.

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Alice Rossi is a fifty-year-old and has over 29 years of service in the police department. She works in the Greater Manchester Serious Crime Squad and has a few more months left for her retirement. She lost her husband Paul Hunter in an accident six years ago. Her only son Michael lives in Scotland with his wife and child. Alice lives alone in a three-storey Edwardian terrace in Openshaw on the outskirts of Manchester. She has a housekeeper named Dilys to look after the cooking, cleaning and washing.

Alice is woken up one morning by the ring of her mobile. The caller is Superintendent Osbourne. He says two words “She’s back.” Alice knows who ‘she’ is. The Mad Hatter. A female serial killer who’s been challenging Alice Rossi for the past six years. She has left a tweet for Alice: Come out and play one last time, Alice. Still Waters run deep.

Callum’s disappearance and Neil’s murder at the Still Water retreat is handled by the local police until Alice realizes Neil’s murder was the handiwork of the Mad Hatter. As Alice arrives at Still Water, she’s paired with a young detective named DS Hawkes.

As the duo start to investigate, pieces of the puzzle begins to fall into place. Dismembered body of Callum is found in the lake (only a part of the body) and Alice knows for sure The Mad Hatter is close by. Then, comes a shock. Michael, Alice’s son calls her to say her friend of many years complained to him that his mother has no time for her. The Mad Hatter had never contacted any of Alice’s friends or family before. Soon, Alice learns almost everybody working with her or acquainted with her received a brochure of the retreat. Looks like The Mad Hatter has meticulously planned the killings this time, down to the detail of luring Alice and possibly her acquaintances to the scene of crime.

Alice’s husband Paul abused her repeatedly. When he died, Alice changed back to her maiden (sur)name. Her son never understood the ‘new found’ happiness of his mother and Alice tried her best to tell him about his father’s behaviour towards her. But Michael adored his father and refused to accept the truth. As the story proceeds, we see Michael come to terms with what his mother went through and together they make s startling discovery about Paul’s past.

The story is part cat-and-mouse chase and part inverted mystery. While the first half is more of Alice’s desperation to find the real identity of the serial killer (the cat-and-mouse chase), the second half is mostly gathering clues that prove this certain somebody is, indeed, The Mad Hatter. The story begins on a slow note but given that this is the first book in the series, the pacing was quite obvious. Also, some reviewers on Goodreads have mentioned they would have loved some background on The Mad Hatter’s previous handiwork and how Alice failed to solve the mystery. Maybe we can expect something of this sort in the next book?

There is no doubt Helen Durrant is a master storyteller. The Ash Lake Murders is yet another masterpiece by my favorite author. I was hooked on to the story and could not put it down until the end. The story gets a tad creepy at times so if you are faint hearted, do not read this book before bedtime. The twist at the end of story was a total shocker! Gosh! I never saw that coming. Also, this twist is going to form the basis for the next few books in the series. I am looking forward to see how well Alice is going to perform in his cat-and-mouse chase.

The Ash Lake Murders by Helen Durrant is a compelling page-turner. If you are looking for a unique and engrossing police procedural, you might want to add this book to your TBR.

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