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Crossbones Yard by Kate Rhodes

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Article by Susan Condon ©.
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Ray and Marie Benson killed thirteen women before they were caught, tried and imprisoned. Five of their victims were never found.

Psychologist Alice Quentin’s life is unravelling. She lives in a glamorous London neighbourhood but memories of her father’s violence still haunt her, and her drug-addicted psychotic brother Will is living in his van, parked right outside her apartment.

When Alice discovers a prostitute’s body on a deconsecrated graveyard, the police ask her to build a profile of the serial killer. The wounds are horrifyingly similar to the Bensons’ signature style, is this a copycat murderer?

Crossbones Yard begins with a two page prologue that sets your heart pounding and from there it just gets better and better. Writers are always told to grab their readers with that amazing first line – chapter one begins, ‘I peered into the metal box without stepping inside.’ That may be true of Alice Quentin, but Kate Rhodes manages to push the reader head first into the story and then this well-paced thriller really takes off.

Alice Quentin, the main character, had a less than idyllic past. Now a psychologist, she has managed to make a life for herself while still dealing with the repercussions from her childhood.

DCI Don Burns asks Alice to carry out an assessment for the Metropolitan police relating to a victim discovered at Crossbones Yard. It is a request she would have preferred to deny and which draws her into the evil world of imprisoned, Marie Benson, who still claims to be innocent.

Rhodes is also a poet which becomes apparent in her beautiful writing. Written in the first person, every word is perfectly chosen, managing to portray Alice as both a vulnerable, yet strong individual as she struggles to right the world around her.

Crossbones Yard is set in London and the landscape is shared with us through Alice’s eyes as she attempts to exorcise her demons on her regular run through the city. The characters we are introduced to are well-formed; each of them teaching us more about Alice as her interaction with them evokes different character traits and qualities.

We can feel her anguish when clues point to someone she cares deeply about as she battles between doing the right thing and proving their innocence. By the time another body is found and the killer focuses on Alice we have more than a few prime suspects to keep us guessing. I won’t spoil your read by sharing much about them, but I do hope Angie appears again in the series – although she had only a minor appearance in this novel, she is a strong character who piques your interest.

The dialogue is snappy and the plot is well-paced and gripping with the tension skilfully ratcheted up to reach a satisfying conclusion. I knew as soon as I began reading that I would not be able to put this book down – and I was right! Crossbones Yard is a thoroughly enjoyable psychological thriller that ticks all the boxes and I look forward to reading more from Rhodes.

Kate Rhodes was born in London. She completed a doctorate in American literature, then taught English at universities in Britain and the United States. She published two collections of poetry, Reversal and The Alice Trap and her writing has won a number of awards and been shortlisted for prizes including the Forward Prize. She currently works as an educational consultant, and lives in Cambridge with her husband, a writer and film maker.


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