This was my first introduction to Val Penny, and readers, I think I’m in love.
Not only did I get to spend two fabulous evenings lost in a thrilling new mystery with a quirky investigative team, but was also treated to a long overdue visit with my beloved Edinburgh by way of memory and imagination. I got to revisit some of my favourite pubs (Deacon’s House & Fiddler’s Arms), drift back to the Christmas Market, and then fall asleep reliving my walk back from the NLS to my little flat in Merchiston above the Gregg’s by way of the pubic triangle (if you know, you know). The only thing missing from my jaunt down memory lane were some sandwiches from Oink.
But enough about me, we’re here to talk about a book, and a darned good one at that!
Though Hunter’s Secret is the fifth in a series, it’s written as a standalone that can be enjoyed by series veterans and newbies alike. I was immediately drawn in by the diverse and dynamic team, and really appreciated that there was a tactful mix of less obvious on-page representation alongside some much more in-depth conversations. Honestly, it was refreshing to read a gripping, twisty crime thriller that didn’t revolve around a homogenous, white, cis, male base – the result is that it actually felt like the team was more representative of the world we live in than most crime fiction I’ve been reading of late. And the best part about it all? When confronted with those annoyingly bigoted types there is never any doubt as to who’s the douche.
I really enjoyed the multitude of ways in which this book came together. From the balance between Hunter’s past and present, to the blend of perspectives, and especially the careful dispensation of personal details throughout the text the flow felt absolutely effortless. And to top it all off, the dialogue is spot on. Not only does it feel natural and engaging, the way in which Penny renders dialect really helped for me to hear each character’s voice. Even with such a big team to wrap my brain around their distinctness on the page really made it easy to keep them apart.
Finally, I should probably mention something about the cases this book revolves around! No one expects to come across a body out of the blue, and no one expects them disappear just as quick, but sometimes lightening strikes twice. You have two cases, thirty years apart, with some tenuous connections. But as the cases progress it becomes clear that not only are the team looking for a potential serial killer, but that the killings are most definitely hate crimes. The targeting of specific minorities within the LGBTQ community may be triggering for some, but I do think this book offers a valuable look at the ways in which both the police and society at large fail those they don’t care to understand.
Overall this was an absolutely smashing read. I was engaged from the first page to the last, and have no doubt that I will soon be coming back form more. Packed full with characters that are both easy to love, and easier to hate, I’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself screaming at the pages in the same way that I did. Emotionally gripping and action packed Hunter’s Secret is book that I would happily recommend!