When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Sometimes life is just crazy-pants busy—so full of a million and one little things, that tasks I was (almost) certain had been accomplished, instead wound up getting completely overlooked. A "for instance," you ask? Take my failure to review any of the books in the Detective Helen Grace series by M. J. Arlidge—something I was positive I’d managed to do at least a couple of times over the past few years… but which, in fact, seems never to have happened, at all.

With that said, this is actually the perfect time to rectify my rather unfortunate little bout of forgetfulness, because the sixth entry in this consistently-engaging and well-written series, Hide and Seek, is, to my mind, the best one, yet.

Without spoiling things too much for anyone unfamiliar with the series (certainly no more so than reading the back of a book jacket or synopsis on Amazon would do), a brief bit of backstory is necessary…

Detective Inspector Helen Grace works out of Southampton, where she has a stellar track record for solving cases involving sadistic acts of violence (although her methods do have a tendency to go against established protocol, with regard to orders from her superiors and safety limits). Nonetheless, results talk, so her actions (and sometimes-abrasive personality) are mostly tolerated.

On the personal front, she is perhaps even more unconventional (but just as driven); she lives alone—neither having nor seeking a romantic relationship—and she runs, spars, and rides her motorcycle in her spare time, rather than hanging out at the pub with friends (of which she doesn’t really have any), going shopping, or doing any of the other spare-time things we all tend to enjoy. What she does have, in spades, is a messy, sad childhood—something she ran from for most of her adult life (but which finally starts coming to brutal light early in the series).

Moving forward, then, to where the sixth book picks up… A sequence of shocking events has transpired that finds Helen—unbelievably—not only framed for a series of vicious murders, but imprisoned for them… housed in a decrepit penitentiary right alongside many of the very same inmates she’d helped put there over the years. 

With everyone on the inside naturally against her, and no one on the outside (not the former subordinate who gleefully took her job, not the superior who’d been gunning for her forever, and not the thorn-in-her-side reporter who now delights in detailing Helen’s miserable stay behind bars)—save one colleague (and the closest thing to a friend she actually has), who refuses to give up and has her back (going so far as lying to their boss about what she’s investigating)—it’s down to Helen to figure out how to survive inside long enough for a miracle to happen… and she's fresh out of miracles.

As I said earlier, M. J. Arlidge’s Helen Grace series started out with a bang and has just continued picking up steam. Helen is a complicated character, and the fact that she brings so much baggage with her—that truly horrific stuff in her past—which she deals with in ways we typically only ever see men do, is refreshing.

Could you read Hide and Seek on its own, and get the gist of what's going on? Sure, you could… but do yourself a favor and start at the beginning. This is a fascinating journey well worth taking.



  1. I've never been much of a mystery reader (probably because my Dad is a huge mystery reader and I had to be different) but this sounds intruiging!


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