Into the Fire is the third book in the DCI Maarten Jansen series, and having massively enjoyed the earlier, St Albans-based novels, I was hugely looking forward to reading this latest crime thriller.
‘Her books are really a blend of police procedural and psychological thriller – and they are also complemented by extremely fine writing – lyrical, haunting, poetic … In her third book, her skill is evidenced further.‘
what it says on the cover …
In a gorgeous mansion in the Hertfordshire countryside, sisters Lois and Ebba prepare to launch their new venture. Archipelago is an exploitation-free tech company whose virtual reality game promises to unite the worlds of technology, politics and the environment.
Invited to the launch party are their investors: current and ex-politicians, international business moguls and activists, one of whom – Marieke – has been receiving online abuse and death threats for her views on eco-politics.
DCI Maarten Jansen has been summoned to join the house party. He is sure the threats are from online trolls with nothing better to do – he’s only offering police protection because his boss wants to put the VIP guests at ease. But when eight of the guests are involved in a suspicious helicopter crash, Maarten starts to uncover long-buried secrets – and a murderer in their midst…
PUBLISHED: 1st April 2021
SHELF: crime | thriller | suspense
AUTHOR: Rachael Blok
PUBLISHER: Head of Zeus
FORMATS: Hardback | Paperback | Kindle
‘There’s something about this room, this night. There’s definitely something in the air … and there’s a tension, like the whine of an over-taut violin string, snaking through the air and the conversation.’
my review …
The DCI Maarten Jansen series have been one of my favourite, recent crime fiction finds. Whilst they tick all the desirable boxes for twists, tension, and great characters, they stand out from the crowd with their distinctive, fresh storylines, and the instantly recognisable cadence of the author’s writing style. There are now three DCI Jansen books but each one is a self-contained story making this a very easy series to pick up at any point.
Into The Fire opens with a dramatic, catastrophic bang – quite literally. In the very first chapter we are introduced to the key characters and the crux of the story … the bitter rivalries, simmering resentments, and toxic secrets swirling amongst a high-profile, extremely affluent group of individuals who are on the verge of launching a ground-breaking new immersive virtual reality gaming product into the global market.
The company is called Archipelago and it’s the brainchild of Lois and Ebba Munch, and their close friend Iqbal. Whilst their product is set to be a huge success, they’ve had to call upon significant investment, and yet these wealthy individuals could prove to be rather destructive for the fledgling company. The company is founded on strong ethical trading principles, and has secured the support of an outspoken Dutch politician who’s making waves – and enemies – with her high-profile campaign to wipe out unethical business practices.
Spanning a tightly-wound three-day period, the book follows events as the investors attend an exclusive dinner party and overnight stay at Lois and Ebba’s Hertfordshire mansion, the night before they’re all due to be flown by hybrid helicopter to London for a demonstration and media launch. Among the guests are multi-millionaires, a famous actress, and the Dutch politician who’s recently started receiving handwritten death threats. In addition to the uniformed police presence safeguarding the house, DCI Jansen is attending the dinner with his wife, Liv, who strikes up a rather enjoyable, wine-fuelled conversation with Filip, one of the investors. With fine champagne loosening tongues, bolstering egos, and fanning the smouldering resentments, it’s not long before ill-concealed animosities bubble to the surface.
As with the author’s two earlier books, the setting plays as much of a role in the mood of the story as the plot and characters do. In this case, the privacy of the house, and the enforced seclusion of the event, along with misty autumnal countryside all serve to heighten the isolated sense of secrecy and subterfuge.
Through intelligent plotting, the tense undercurrents and sense of unease percolate the ebb and flow of the chapters, making it impossible to feel comfortable. In Maarten’s own words, I feel like I’ve missed a page. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s the unknowing sense of foreboding and an escalating tension that I’ve come to relish from these books. We can’t quite see any of the characters completely or clearly, and there’s plenty of inter-character dynamics at play that keep the reader delightfully on edge. And in this book it becomes clear that DCI Jansen has some secrets of his own; secrets he’s not shared with his wife, and yet two people attending this dinner party know all about them.
Unlike the two previous books, I felt DCI Jansen and his team were less prevalent than usual. The weight of character content falls significantly towards Ebba and Lois, Iqbal, and the main investors. It’s their relationships and rivalries that really drive the plot forwards, far more so than the investigation content. For a crime thriller that contains two grizzly murders, a hand-delivered death threat, and some heavy-handed blackmail, this is a little unusual, but there are so many unknown elements and secrets among the Archipelago group that this format works rather well.
The book is structured across two present-day timelines – even though the events only span a short, three day period. This may sound unfeasible but it works incredibly well, as the chapters which are narrated by Maarten, Lois, Iqbal, and Filip, twist the threads of the present day and back stories with disorientating deftness. For each doubt they put to rest, they throw up new unknowns and cast new suspicions. This unsettling notion was magnified by the somewhat provocative and divisive natures of each of the main characters, with their vulnerabilities and close-guarded secrets being tantalisingly drawn out of them as the chapters progress, constantly shifting and skewing my grasp on the story.
The intensity of suspense, and pace of the twists and revelations increases superbly as the book nears its final chapters. It kept me guessing until the very last, brilliantly dramatic moments. Any fan of crime fiction, suspense thrillers and murder mysteries will find Rachael Blok’s novels a hugely enjoyable addition to their book shelves.
Thank you to Rachael Blok for sending me a limited edition proof copy in return for an honest, impartial review, and also NetGalley for approving my request for a digital copy! There’s no such thing as too many books!
Rachael grew up in Durham and now lives in Hertfordshire. Her crime series is set in the cathedral city of St Albans. Here, Maarten Jansen struggles against his plain-speaking Dutch upbringing when faced with the seemingly polite world of the picturesque city.
Under the Ice and The Scorched Earth are the first and second books in the DCI Jansen series.
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