Both books feature journalist Alex Devlin, who is investigating crimes and cases that are personal to her. As a journalist, I do have a soft spot for crime fiction featuring journalists although only when they're portrayed realistically, as Mary-Jane Riley has done here.
In The Bad Things, Alex is looking into the abduction and murder (15 years earlier) of her sister Sasha's two small children - Harry's body was discovered soon afterwards, but Millie's remains have never been found. When the woman who was jailed as an accessory to murder is released, Alex is determined to discover what really happened all those years ago. She wants her troubled sister to find closure as Sasha still struggles to cope with the aftermath of the past.
In After She Fell, Alex is investigating the death of the teenage daughter of an old friend. Seventeen-year-old Elena was found at the bottom of the cliff near her boarding school. In this book, we hear Elena's voice in the form of her diaries, providing a snapshot of her life - the teenager is portrayed realistically.
I loved both of these books. Alex is a very believable character. She's warm and sensitive when she needs to be, but also determined and not one to take no for an answer. These books are as much about the characters as the investigations.
Both books are filled with family dynamics, secrets and lies. They are well plotted and gripping, with enough tension and pace to keep me intrigued all the way through. Mary-Jane Riley certainly kept me on my toes, with her twists, turns and red herrings. The endings were unexpected, but also neat, leaving no loose threads.
You could read After She Fell as a standalone, but it does reveal information about The Bad Things, which could act as a spoiler. It's probably best to read this books in the right order.
I look forward to seeing what's next from Mary-Jane Riley.
About the books
The Bad Things
Published by Killer Reads (August 2015)
Alex Devlin’s life changed forever fifteen years ago when her sister Sasha's two small children were snatched in broad daylight. Little Harry’s body was found a few days later, but Millie’s remains were never discovered.
Now Jackie Wood, jailed as an accessory to the twins’ murder, has been released, her conviction quashed by the Appeal Court. Convinced Jackie can reveal where Millie is buried, Alex goes to meet her.
But the unexpected information Wood reveals shocks Alex to the core and threatens to uncover the dark secret she has managed to keep under wraps for the past fifteen years. Because in the end, can we ever really know what is in the hearts of those closest to us?
Published by Killer Reads (April 2016)
There are so many ways to fall…
Catriona needs help. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Elena was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near her boarding school. The death has been ruled a suicide, but Catriona isn’t convinced.
When her old friend, journalist Alex Devlin, arrives in Hallow’s Edge to investigate, she quickly finds that life at private boarding school The Drift isn’t as idyllic as the bucolic setting might suggest.
Amidst a culture of drug-taking, bullying and tension between school and village, no one is quite who they seem to be, and there are several people who might have wanted Elena to fall…