SCARED TO DEATH is the first in a new series from author Rachel Amphlett. It's a switch from the earlier espionage styled Dan Taylor novels, to a police procedural featuring Detective Kay Hunter.
From the opening scenes with parents Yvonne and Tony racing to provide the ransom money and recover their daughter Melanie, through to the police investigation that follows, there's plenty of intrigue and pace built into SCARED TO DEATH. It is a novel structured in form of police procedural precisely, building a great team around a really strong, central character, looking at the pitfalls, slog and highs of crime investigation. This is a crime that seems to be a kidnapping that's gone horribly wrong, but Hunter always feels there was something not right about the whole scenario. A very odd cause of death is one thing, the way that the ransom was collected is another, and then a second strange death, seems to Hunter to be designed to deflect further investigation setting her up on a collison course with her bosses, and a very nasty killer.
An interesting touch, there's an idea here about the need to keep investigating even if things seem very clear cut. The concept of making darn sure that the seemingly obvious is correct is something that has been reflected in some historical true crime analysis that's been around recently, and it's explored well in this particular novel. Doing it from the point of view of one dedicated, almost obsessive cop has resonance as well - giving readers plenty of ways of connecting with Hunter, especially as she's also got more than a few skeletons in the cupboard.
Given this is the first in a new series, the balance between character and team setup, and creating a fully fleshed out story as well, is nicely done. The plot is tight and clever, the action fast paced and there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. The scenario is complicated without being complex, and even allowing for some aspects from the darker side of crime fiction, it's not overly confrontational or uncomfortable reading.
SCARED TO DEATH is really well written, delivering a plot from the darker side, with a strong female character who is flawed enough to be believable and strong enough to have potential to carry this series forward. There's a good supporting cast of characters and a strong sense of good, old-fashioned, police procedural - investigation, evidence gathering and a touch of intuition.