Set in the Fictional town of Llancastell, on the Eastern edges of Snowdonia in North Wales, Harlech Beach and its surrounding area definitely see its fair share of criminal activity.
From the opening pages, this is a novel that touches on extremely difficult topics including storylines of physical and mental abuse as well as mental illness.
A mother is killed by her husband while their two children can do nothing but standby and watch before one is forced upstairs. While there are no graphic details, what will play out behind the closed bedroom door is definitely implied.
Before this story can progress further, however, we are introduced to two further separate threads, or so it appears on first reading.
Nick Evans is one of the CID detectives fighting drug and gun crime in Llancastell. Two different gangs are fighting to be top dog – the Croxteth Park Boyz and The Bootle Crew – and unfortunately, it is starting to get very violent. During one shift, while out on patrol, Nick witnesses the death of a 19-year-old runner which tips him over the edge, causing the once reformed alcoholic to return to his dependence of drink.
Finally, we are introduced to Detective Inspector Ruth Hunter, currently on a phased return to work plan after the Dinas Bran murders.
“… two teachers from the same school in the sleepy Snowdonia town of Dinas Bran had been murdered within a week of each other.”
During this time, Ruth had just transferred from the London Met and was appointed senior investigating officer and was therefore held ultimately responsible when her investigation technically failed. Since then the incident has weighed heavily on her, and the HR department opted to sign her off work. Since returning she has been placed on desk duties and has been given the role of school liaise in the hope that she will take early retirement, but she won’t be bullied into leaving.
Then Owen Ankers, a local self-made millionaire in Harlech goes missing and Ruth is put on the case.
Before too long, a body washes up down the river and is identified as non-other than Owen Ankers, leading to a murder investigation to be opened up.
Owen Ankers, however, appears to be a fine pillar of society, giving to charity, doing time in the forces and now producing organic fruit and veg. Why anyone would want him dead is a mystery.
As the police delve deeper into Ankers’s company they uncover several disconcerting facts including the notion that Ankers partner Webb seems to enjoy the high-life and is quick to throw money at the gaming tables making him a prime target for anyone wishing to use their company as a front for something else. Does this have something to do with Ankers death? Did he disagree with the wrong person?
Nick and Ruth end up working together to try and solve this crime whilst simultaneously trying to work out whether there is a connection to Blake, the biggest drug trafficker across both Wales and Northern England. They also need to decide whether Ankers neighbour, his ex-wife or his long-lost child have anything to do with his shortened life.
Before too long, it is easy to see how the three separate stories from the beginning of this novel all merge together.
During this narrative though, a second introduced. Several years ago, Ruth’s partner Sarah went missing on her way to work. She was seen getting on the train but never appeared on CCTV at her final destination. What happened to her has remained a mystery, with all leads dying out. In recent weeks, however, new evidence has come to light. Is Ruth finally going to get the answers she is so desperately seeking?
My Thoughts on The Harlech Beach Killings
With so many different stories featuring at the beginning, it is easy to lose track but within a few chapters, you soon begin to realise that all of the information given at the beginning links to the current murder case. At times, this does cause the pace to slow slightly and as a reader, you being to wonder whether you have been thrown a red herring, but it is a well-crafted story that uncovers the murderer and their motive at a steady, unhurried way.
This complex story also touches on several difficult topics that some readers may struggle with, including rape, physical abuse, mental illness, multiple personalities, and alcoholism, and so for that reason, I cannot say it is a book for everyone. If however, you are able to read a book with these serious themes, all topics are well handled and thoroughly explored so that the reader understands the daily fight of those affected.
It is just important to remember that if you pick up a copy of The Harlech Killings it may not be either an easy or a quick read. It will leave you emotionally drained.
Have you read The Harlech Beach Killings or a book with similar themes?