Happy publication day, Mark Hill! The Bad Place is out today and it’s the start of a new series. I’ll give you my thoughts in a minute but here’s the blurb.
The newspapers called it The Bad Place. A remote farm out on the Thames estuary, where six children were held captive for two weeks. Five of them got out alive.
That was twenty years ago. Now adults, they meet up annually to hold a candlelit vigil for their friend who died. The only rule is that no-one can talk about what happened the night they escaped. But at this year’s event, one of them witnesses a kidnapping. A young girl, Sammi, is bundled into a van in front of their eyes.
Is history repeating itself? Is one of them responsible? Or is someone sending them a twisted message?
DI Sasha Dawson, of Essex Police, is certain that the key to finding Sammi lies in finding out the truth about The Bad Place. But she also knows that with every second she spends trying to unlock the past, the clock ticks down for the missing girl…
After his very dark series with DI Ray Drake, Mark Hill (writing as M.K. Hill) has burst back onto the crime scene with a tale of sun, sea and suspicion. Well, it couldn’t all be good news – that’s not how Crime works. Enter DI Sasha Dawson based in Southend. So that’s the sun and sea covered. Now for the suspicion. A teenage girl is abducted. Could it be connected to 6 children who were abducted 20 years previously?
On the face of it, DI Sasha Dawson is a much sunnier person than DI Ray Drake. She’s married and has children. Her parents live nearby. She’s in her 40s but has prematurely white hair. Mark Hill doesn’t allude to it but I wonder if it’s linked to a trauma she experienced a few years before. The shiny veneer on Sasha’s family life is paper-thin. I think Mark has got the balance correct in writing a female character. He shows how Sasha juggles her work and family life and regularly drops the balls.
There are multiple viewpoints in the story and it switches between the past and the present. Mark has used this style before and it works well. Like a jigsaw, Sasha’s storyline is the outside edges and corners. But the middle is the 6 children and what happened to them. The middle is dark and murky and Baden Place (the property where the children were kept) is aptly named ‘The Bad Place’. I liked the slow reveal of what happened at ‘The Bad Place’ and the story kept me guessing until nearly the end.
Beach settings have become popular on TV for police dramas and Southend fits neatly into that category. Mark Hill is always hugely descriptive in his writing and I love how he describes the seaside town – ‘Some of the men already had their tops off, revealing angry red shoulders and brown bellies that poured over the elastic of their shorts like tarmac from a tipper… The air was thick with the sweet smell of burned sugar… The arcades were already open and the din of music and electronic sounds, the rings and whooshes and whistles of hundreds of machines, rolled across the street.’ I’ve never been to Southend but those sights, sounds and smells sum up most British seaside towns and I could picture it.
This is a fantastic start to a new series. It seems that there are plenty of secrets in Southend and I can’t wait for DI Sasha Dawson and her team to uncover more.
M.K. Hill was a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer before becoming a full-time writer. As Mark Hill, he’s the author of His First Lie and It Was Her. He lives in London.
I have the opportunity to ask Mark some questions about The Bad Place on Tuesday 1st October along with William Shaw. See the poster for details. Would love to see you there!