When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.
But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.
When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.
With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.
For the killer, the game has only just begun...
Discovering new talented authors is always very exciting, especially when their book's blurb promises a nail-biting, thrilling ride. I have to say that I'd never heard of author Rachel Amphlett before and it's only now that I realise how much I was missing out! 'Scared to Death' is the first book in her new DS Kay Hunter series.
"I have your daughter. If you want to see her alive again, follow these instructions."
The author literally grabs the reader by the throat from the word go. The book kicks off with a heart-pounding, terrifying chapter. Having paid ransom, a desperate couple rushes through town at breakneck speed, their destination - a derelict lab in an abandoned industrial estate - the place where their daughter's kidnappers have promised they will find Melanie safe and sound. However once there, their worst fears come true. Yes, they find their daughter Melanie... but dead. My heart went out to the poor parents and I could feel their pain and heartbreak.
Was this a case of kidnapping gone wrong? Or was Melanie deliberately murdered? Who are these kidnappers? And why did they target Melanie and her family?
From then on the story takes a bizarre turn when a man possessing the ransom money is found dead. Was he the kidnapper? Did he kill Melanie? And who killed him? What's happening here?
DS Kay Hunter of Kent police, her boss DI Sharp and the rest of the team begin their investigation. We are told who the perpetrator is early on in the book - a seriously twisted and shrewd psychopath who loves nothing more than to scare his victims to death - but this makes the whole plot even more interesting. With no motive, no trace evidence and no suspect, how will Kay and the others solve this unusual case?
Reading crime novels, I always wonder how authors come around with such creative, ingenious, elaborate new ways of 'murdering' their poor victims. How do they come up with such ideas? Do they google these things?? Do they dream about them? This is certainly the case with Ms Amphlett. You'll know what I mean when you read the book.
All characters in this book are well portrayed and realistic. Kay Hunter is a very likeable character and I definitely want to meet her again in other books. She's an able, tough and well-respected police officer, married to a vet. She forms part of a great team. I liked the way the author depicts the strong camaraderie that exists between the team members. We know that Kay has gone through a very traumatic episode some time before the story in this book starts but we are not given any concrete details. Just a few hints as to what has happened, enough to spike the reader's curiosity, but the indications given are that the author intends to expand on this in future books.
Well I enjoyed every second I spent reading this book and I feel really excited with this new series. 'Scared to Death' includes all the ingredients a crime fiction lover like me looks out for in a book. The writing is excellent and the tense twisted plot keeps the reader engrossed throughout. Short chapters make the experience even more delightful so I could always squeeze in that additional chapter here and there when I had a spare moment.
With a clever, fast-paced, well-thought out plot, many great characters, several suspenseful, terrifying scenes and twists and turns galore, this book is just fabulous and I highly recommend it.
With many thanks to the author for an Advanced Reader Copy of this book which I received voluntarily.
It happens every time.
I get an idea for a story in my head, imagine a fabulous cast of characters, and then just as I’m about to start plotting out the story I stop and think “I don’t know anything about this subject”!
I’ve based the Kay Hunter series around one of the towns where I used to live - Maidstone, in Kent. The only problem is, I haven’t lived there for 11 years now (I’m currently based in Brisbane, Australia). In addition, I’ve never worked in the police service in the UK - so, where to start?
Well, first I didn’t worry too much about it. I got my head down and concentrated on creating the first rough draft of Scared to Death. Once my gut instinct knew the story worked, then I went back and began checking facts.
To start off with, I knew I had to get all the police procedures and processes right. There’s nothing worse than assuming when it comes to this sort of thing - crime readers are a canny bunch, and some of my friends are also police officers in the UK (and abroad), so I didn’t want the embarrassment of one of them emailing me and telling me I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about.
I made some phone calls, wrote some emails, and some very kind serving and retired police officers came to my rescue. The first task they set me was to buy a second hand copy of the Senior Investigating Officer’s Handbook, a pocket-book sized tome that rather handily sets out everything a senior detective must do when investigating a crime. I think my copy must’ve once belonged to a serving detective or someone studying to become one, as there are highlighted sections everywhere - all added to now by my own system of coloured flags on a lot of the pages! Another book that I found to be useful to start off my research was The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure. Both of these titles gave me a good starting point to check what I’d written to date. After that, I could then email my contacts with specific questions relevant to my story in the knowledge that I was on the right track; I just had to check that I had the right process for each scenario. I’m very grateful to every one of those serving and retired police officers that didn’t mind me bombarding them with questions on a regular basis. The more I learn, the more respect I have for these people doing a very difficult job.
Luckily I returned to Maidstone earlier this year in May when visiting family and friends, so I wasn’t as out of touch with the location as I thought I might be when first sketching out the series. The town centre has changed enormously since I lived there, but there were still familiar landmarks, the road system hadn’t changed, and the setting still felt very familiar. Once I returned to Australia, I was able to email friends to check facts and of course, there’s always Google Maps and Google Earth to get a sense of actually being there once more. The Kentish countryside and outlying villages all lend themselves to this series, and provide me with a lot of scope for stories. Of course, many of the locations have been tweaked to suit the story, and some of the places are completely fictitious, but having spent three years living on the outskirts of the town, it’s been fun to include it in the series.
Finally, while I was writing the first draft, I read every interview I could with crime writers I respect, including Peter James, Ian Rankin, and Val McDermid. Their insights into the genre after so many years writing in it was invaluable, and I learned a lot from taking the time to do this.
For me, writing isn’t simply about telling stories. I love the learning curve that comes with it, and I continue to build on what I’ve found out to date by studying short courses in police interviewing techniques and forensic science.
Of course, the research has the added bonus of giving me more ideas for stories, and I look forward to sharing the next Detective Kay Hunter investigation with you very soon.
Rachel Amphlett is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter crime thriller series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers.
Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel’s novels appeal to a worldwide audience, and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton.
She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, being sold to Fanucci Editore's TIMECrime imprint in 2014.
An advocate for knowledge within the publishing industry, Rachel is always happy to share her experiences to a wider audience through her blogging and speaking engagements.
You can keep in touch with Rachel by signing up to her mailing list via her website (http://www.rachelamphlett.com), or via Facebook (http://on.fb.me/TN7rpu) and Twitter: @RachelAmphlett