What is the secret of the forester living a hermit-like existence in the remotest part of the Wingate Estate? Is he a callous murderer? Is he now taking a terrible revenge on those who wronged him? Or, does the truth lie elsewhere? A ruthless killer is on the rampage, one with a distinctive trademark. With resources decimated by a flu epidemic, Mike Nash is forced to use unorthodox tactics to expose a web of corruption and deceit spanning the years. Evidence all seems to point to an inevitable conclusion, but will Mike be able to uncover the truth, and can he do so before it is too late for all concerned – be they innocent or guilty?

Back Slash by Bill KitsonBack Slash took me by complete surprise. I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of Bill Kitson’s previous work but on the strength of his latest Mike Nash adventure in crime solving I will have to make sure I go back to the very beginning and discover more about this maverick cop and what makes him tick. Back Slash is the fifth in a series that began in 2009 with Depth of Despair. If the others are half as good and entertaining as this novel then I highly recommend you check out the rest of the series, perhaps beginning with the debut title allowing you to enjoy the character development and growth I didn’t and although this novel is part of an established series I found Back Slash stood alone well.

The one thing I hadn’t expected was its fluidity. Back Slash includes an incredibly fast paced narrative and although used far too frequently, this is a book I certainly didn’t want to put down. Kitson somehow manages to cram a lot of evidence, murder and skulduggery – not forgetting a quest for revenge – in a little over 320 pages and at the same time keeps the storyline ticking along nicely.

Having said that I did find the opening passages a little confusing as Kitson threw so many characters and scenarios at me that I found it a little too much to keep control – in my small head – of what was actually happening. However, once I’d settled in to the storyline and worked out who was who the beginning made a lot of sense. One thing I did do, just to satisfy my own curiosity, was to go back and re read the first twenty pages once I’d settled into a rhythm and I found that it certainly helped me make sense of the opening salvos.

Characterisation was impressive and even though I relished getting to know the protagonist – Mike Nash – it was Alan Marshall who kept me glued from beginning to end! I just found myself warming to him as a character and person and I loved the way he operated, he thought and how he tried work his way out of one precarious predicament after another. The way Kitson developed him as a character was impressive and well put together. All the characters were believable but Marshall was undoubtedly my guilty pleasure.

There were only ten shopping days before Christmas. DI Mike Nash grimaced at the thought; office parties, drunken brawls, domestic violence and opportunist thieves. That’s what Christmas meant to him. When he walked into Helmsdale police station he was surprised to see the reception desk manned by Sergeant Binns, who’d been working at HQ in Netherdale. ‘What are you doing here, Jack?’

‘I’ve been sent back. Flu!’

‘Who’s gone down with it now?’

‘Almost everybody. Apart from you, me and your visitor.’

‘My visitor? Who?’

‘The chief constable, no less. She doesn’t visit many of her officers’– Binns gave a sly glance – ‘but we all know she has a soft spot for you.’

‘You’ve been listening to Clara too much; you’re getting to sound like her.’

Nash hurried upstairs to his office. ‘Morning, ma’am.’

Mike Nash is another intriguing cast member and I enjoyed how he commanded his troops and worked with his superiors. He appears to have the respect from those above him as well as those below him in rank and although a maverick policeman, his unusual tactics are tolerated because he thinks outside the box unlike any other cop, but perhaps more importantly he gets results.

The story itself is well presented, intelligent and complex enough to satisfy the most ardent of whodunit fan. It works well and is, perhaps more importantly, believable. I read the book in two highly enjoyable sittings and was disappointed when I closed the book for the final time, not due to the ending I hasten to add but because the adventure was over.

A wonderful and engaging read Back Slash is guaranteed to entertain and will leave you wanting more. I guess you can’t ask for more than that, this is a veritable winter warmer title that should be read in front of a heart warming fire. Highly recommended.

Published by Robert Hale, Back Slash is available in Hardback Format

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