The Second Stage of Grief, Katherine Hayton

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Book Title: 
The Second Stage of Grief
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Ngaire Blakes
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Book Synopsis

A false accusation. A brutal murder. Can Ngaire find a killer before he finds her?

Ngaire Blakes is trying to put her life back together. The ex-cop resigned from the police after a vicious assault left her battling PTSD. Dragged into a murder investigation, she’s shocked to discover that all the evidence points to her.

When the body count climbs, Ngaire flees to the cold comfort of her estranged father’s hometown. In danger and not knowing who to trust, she severs contact with her closest allies and must learn to rely on herself if she’s going to catch the killer before it’s too late.

The Second Stage of Grief is the second book in a series of mystery novels set in the dark shadows of New Zealand. If you enjoy gritty mysteries, strong women who rise to the challenge, and thrilling psychological suspense, then you’ll love Katherine Hayton’s latest installment in the Ngaire Blakes trilogy. 

Book Review

This is an embarrassingly overdue mention of the second novel in a series which is going from strength to strength. Apologies to the author, the delay is all my fault.

If you're not aware of the Ngaire Blakes series from New Zealand author Katherine Hayton then this is one that needs to go on the to be read pile. Starting out with THE THREE DEATHS OF MAGDALENE LYNTON, then this novel, THE SECOND STAGE OF GRIEF onto the third, which was longlisted in this year's Ngaio Marsh Awards, THE ONLY SECRET LEFT TO KEEP, this is a police procedural which is improving in leaps and bounds with every outing.

Centred around Ngaire Blakes, a Police Detective who in this novel has resigned from the force after a brutal assault has left her suffering from PTSD, Blake is a terrific character. Flawed and complex without being tediously complicated, Blakes is strong enough to take on the world on her own in THE SECOND STAGE OF GRIEF, after isolating herself from friends and colleagues, and running to her estranged father's remote hometown to hide. Only hiding never works, and somehow Blakes finds herself in the position of having to find a killer before a frame up gets her.

The procedural elements of these books work pretty well, and the plots are nicely twisty and tricky, but at the heart of it all is a great character study. Blakes is one of those characters that you can't help but like, even though you'd probably want to shake sense into her if it was real life. She's troubled, she's flawed, she's suffering and she's extremely real and absolutely believable. Setting or sense of place is slightly less important, and in THE SECOND STAGE OF GRIEF if nothing else, Blakes fleeing to her father's place gives the author an opportunity to give the reader a sense of the remoteness and rural nature of the areas that she's moving through.

There was potential in the first book that's been continued in this second outing. There are obvious hints here that Blakes police career is far from over though, and the third book deservedly won a place on the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards longlist. More on that next up.

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