Little Boy Blue
M.J. Arlidge
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Buy *Little Boy Blue (A Helen Grace Thriller)* by M.J. Arlidgeonline

Little Boy Blue (A Helen Grace Thriller)
M.J. Arlidge
400 pages
October 2016
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Detective Chief Inspector Helen Grace (and the furies that ravage her soul) returns in another riveting journey through the world of criminality, a unique protagonist who treads a lonely path between past and present. In Little Boy Blue, the enigmatic Southampton detective is assigned to a case so intimately bound to her deepest secrets that her success as a top investigator is in serious jeopardy. Hovering ever at the threshold of the dark side she shields from others, Grace has so far managed to keep private life and career separate, the latest murder too close for comfort as both areas threaten to overlap.

Ugly crimes and the constant threat of exposure are everyday realities for Grace, who leads a loyal team inspired by her boldness and take-no-prisoners approach to investigation. The most recent--and shocking--murder occurs in a private chamber in a club called The Torture Rooms. Clearly, the victim has suffered a painful death while engaging in an act of bondage and domination. Limbs bound, his body completely wrapped, every orifice covered, the victim is found suspended, lifeless. Helen is deeply upset when an identification of the victim is finally made: the dead man is Jack Elder, a long-time dominator Helen has visited to alleviate the stress that inevitably builds during an investigation, the only way she can contain her emotions through a long and grueling case. So far, there have been few cases that havenít led Grace to Jackís place for a private session. When Jack became emotionally attached, she stopped her sessions. They were on friendly terms when Jack began a new and meaningful relationship.

There are common threads in the Grace mysteries and a recurring cast of characters, those who either value the relationship with Helen or wish her ill, friends or enemies with hidden agendas or unfailing loyalty, from Detective Sergeant Charlie Brooks to Detective Sergeant Sanderson, who covets the closeness between Grace and Brooks. Helenís new boss, Superintendent Jonathan Gardner, has been nursing a secret obsession for his lead investigator, offering both friendship and solace to a woman he believes reciprocates his interest. Helenís most lethal and dangerous enemy, reporter Emilia Garanita, a burn-scarred face separating Emilia from the rest of the world, is driven to expose and humiliate Grace. Emilia shadows Helenís every move, gathering information she hopes will finally destroy the reputation of her nemesis, perhaps even implicate Helen in the recent murders. Though Garanita occasionally cooperates with the detective for the greater good, she always reverts to obstructive behavior, cruelty born of her own wretched existence.

Given this protagonistís fierce desire for personal privacy and inability to tolerate mistakes in a case when lives are at stake, Helen is often an antagonist, rigidly guarding her terrible history while inciting avid curiosity in those obsessed with knowing what has caused the enigmatic detectiveís excessive secrecy. Arlidge defines the parameters of Graceís existence in each new thriller, the bleak corners of a past that inspired the spate of murders in the first tale, Eeny Meeny, and still-unfinished business that weaves through each new story, Grace hunkered into a familiar mode of self-protection. Meanwhile, a network of others--some outright enemies like Garanita--compile a plethora of information to use when opportunity arises. With each new murder tied in some manner to Helen, she is thrust into a trap from which there is no escape. Speeding through the night on her bike with nowhere to hide, Grace reaches an impasse, confronted by a wily foe with a design for ultimate revenge. Grace is in mortal danger as the hounds of hell bay for vengeance.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2016

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