Hide and Seek
M.J. Arlidge
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Buy *Hide and Seek (A Helen Grace Thriller)* by M.J. Arlidgeonline

Hide and Seek (A Helen Grace Thriller)
M.J. Arlidge
416 pages
October 2017
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines's take on Hide and Seek.

“In Holloway, danger was only a heartbeat away.”
DI Helen Grace is currently awaiting trial, locked away in Holloway Prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Since her arrival, Helen has become an object of morbid curiosity and derision from those who have already labeled her a “murderer and a pervert.” In Holloway’s maze of narrow, ill-lit corridors, there are numerous opportunities for ambush. But Helen refuses to look broken as she’s forced to endure the daily grind of petty insults and casual violence. Although she has survived thus far, Helen can never let her guard down. Each night brings fresh doubts. Starved of company and bereft of sympathy, Helen’s one remaining ally is DS Charlie Brooks, who works to secure her release, convinced of her colleague’s innocence.

Arlidge’s short, blunt chapters raise the tension, ricocheting between Helen, Charlie, and the musings of Charlie’s boss, DI Joanne Sanderson. Much has changed since Helen Grace’s incarceration. The reputation of the Hampshire Police has taken a terrible battering following the revelation that “they had harbored a killer in their midst.” The only “fly in the ointment” is Charlie’s obsession with Helen. Not a shred of primary evidence connected Helen’s nephew, Robert Stonehill, with three killings.

Meanwhile, a serial killer is operating within the crumbling halls of Holloway. The victims are being horribly mutilated, the perpetrator sewing up their mouths and eyes and stuffing their orifices with Vaseline. It seems as though the killer has feelings for women, however depraved or base these women might be. How many killers are involved? Is there another individual who manages him? Do they know one another? The first victim, Leah Smith, was a restless, unpopular junkie whose killer struck mercilessly and with impunity. There is no telling if, or when the killer might strike again.

Inside this quickly unfolding nightmare, Helen sets about trying to unmask a murderer. The place crawls with killers; Helen knows there are plenty of suspects crammed within the prison’s crumbling walls. Yet for her own sake and everyone else’s, Helen has to act. At the same time, Celia Bassett, the governor of Holloway, is hijacked by Campbell, her senior officer. Holloway is due to be mothballed at the end of the year, and Celia is trying hard to control the skeleton crew of officers who are already beyond exhausted, ground down by the daily stress abuse and violence.

The cases, both inside and outside of Holloway, literally grow wings, propelling Arlidge’s frantic plot forward in a series of violent confrontations. On the scent of her quarry, Charlie roars up the M3 to London in pursuit of Helen’s nemesis, determined to investigate what drove Robert Stonehill to wreak his terrible revenge. Robert was Helen’s only living relative, bound to her by birth and history. Robert was also the son of Marianne Haynes, the infamous serial killer whose reign of terror came to an end after Helen shot her dead. Back at Holloway, Helen searches for a murderer in a sea of deeply damaged women. Battered and bruised, Helen’s trusting nature blinds her to what is right under her noise. She’s convinced that there is something there, but she needs to find a way to introduce it to Bassett.

If I had known that Arlidge’s Helen Grace series was so exciting I would have taken the time to read his other titles. The good news: you don’t have to have read them to appreciate Hide and Seek. The author channels Helen’s interiority in her efforts to solve the case as she attempts to trace all of the evidence with a mix of old-fashioned deduction and dumb luck. Holloway has played host to many dark deeds over the years, saving its darkest chapter until the end. Helen’s impetuous actions require her to try to balance her will to survive in an out-of-control prison riot with Charlie’s need to vindicate her.

The novel is very visual with many dialogue-driven passages that heighten the sense of urgency. From Charlie's attempts to apprehend the agile Stonehill, to Helen’s intense examination of the victims, to Campbell’s desire to dominate, Helen--shackled by the loss of yet more inmates--is tormented by the question of her next move. Arlidge writes a fast-paced tale that keeps the reader guessing until a suspenseful, action-filled conclusion in which Helen finds herself front and center in the cold clutches of a killer.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2017

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