Little Boy Blue is the first M. J. Arlidge book I had read, so despite this being the fifth book she has featured in, the character of DI Helen Grace was not familiar to me. Having said that, the book was a great stand-alone crime novel and I don’t feel not having read the earlier books was a hindrance.
Along the same lines as Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Mark Billingham’s Thorne, DI Grace is a copper who isn’t universally liked by her colleagues. She also has a secret that could threaten to ruin her career.
When a body is found in a nightclub, Grace discovers she had a very personal connection to the victim. She decides to keep this information to herself and work hard to hunt down the killer and get justice for her friend, but will this be her undoing?
The book drags the reader into a world that most will not be familiar with, that of BDSM. Many participants are keen to keep their involvement in the scene a secret, so working out who was at the club on the night of the killing is not going to be easy. No one wants to talk to the police and tracking down the items used in the murder is next to impossible.
When a second body is found, Grace decides to advise a colleague of her connection to both victims – with potentially devastating consequences.
Obviously in one of the earlier books Grace managed to get on the wrong side of journalist Emilia Garanita, and now Garanita is working hard behind the scenes to bring her down. When she finds a witness who lets slip some damning information about Grace, she knows she has a scoop on her hands.
There is tension at the police station, which isn’t helped by two young up-and-coming officers fighting for Grace’s approval. When investigations appear to point in one direction, they both start to wonder whether their boss is more involved with the murders than she’s letting on.
The evidence against Grace appears to be overwhelming and the order is given to arrest her – but she’s not about to let that happen without a fight. The ending is a real cliffhanger and readers will have to wait for the next book, Hide and Seek (released later in 2016) to discover if the killer is caught.
It was no surprise to find that Arlidge has worked in television for the past 15 years, specialising in high-end drama production. He has also produced a number of prime-time crime serials for ITV. The ending of Little Boy Blue is worthy of a television series and I hope the books make it to the screen one day. I’ll certainly be tracking down the other books in the series and I’m now eagerly awaiting the next one.
Reviewed by Faye Lougher
Little Boy Blue
by M.J. Arlidge
Published by Michael Joseph Ltd