Hall of Fame Review: Play Dead by Angela Marsons

Friday 20 May 2016
Title: Play Dead
Author: Angela Marsons
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 20th May 2016
Pages: 381
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
The girl’s smashed-in face stared unseeing up to the blue sky, soil spilling out of her mouth. A hundred flies hovered above the bloodied mess. 

Westerley research facility is not for the faint-hearted. A ‘body farm’ investigating human decomposition, its inhabitants are corpses in various states of decay. But when Detective Kim Stone and her team discover the fresh body of a young woman, it seems a killer has discovered the perfect cover to bury their crime.

Then a second girl is attacked and left for dead, her body drugged and mouth filled with soil. It’s clear to Stone and the team that a serial killer is at work – but just how many bodies will they uncover? And who is next?

As local reporter, Tracy Frost, disappears, the stakes are raised. The past seems to hold the key to the killer’s secrets – but can Kim uncover the truth before a twisted, damaged mind claims another victim …?

A little over a year ago I picked up my Kindle and began reading a book by a then unknown to me author called Angela Marsons. I started it hoping for an enjoyable read after a brilliant marketing campaign carried out by Bookouture, and it certainly sounded like my kind of book. I had no idea that in a year's time I would be reading the fourth book from that same author and citing her as now being in my Top 3 Crime Authors of all time. I often worry whether it comes across just how much I enjoy this series, but I think that the fact it often takes years for an author to become a favourite, and that Angela is already in my Top 3, should hopefully make it clear just how special an author she is, and just how much I love the character of DI Kim Stone. These four books have been some of the best, most addictive crime fiction that I have ever read and between Angie and Chris Carter, I am almost scared to read their books because they set the bar impossibly high for other authors.

I've said it in the past but one of the things I particularly like about this series is how different each book has been from the last and how each story offers something unique. Whether that be a shockingly believable insight into the mind of a ruthless sociopath, a decades old cover-up finally being uncovered or families torn apart by one of the worst crimes imaginable. Sometimes a series can become stale and repetitive with the same tired stories being churned out disguised with a different plot, that is absolutely not the case in Play Dead as Angie once again offers something different, but also continues with that winning formula she has achieved with her earlier books. I'm not going to compare Play Dead too much with the earlier books except to say that it was one of the more fascinating reads, certainly in the opening which was one of Angie's most atmospheric. Angie has a way of writing that places you within the scene you are reading, she is a writer who makes you feel like a witness as opposed to a detached reader just reading words on a page. It can be uncomfortable reading at times, but it is always compelling and I defy anyone to turn away from the page. I was glued to this book.

Kim Stone. I'm not sure what else I can say about this woman except I adore her. As I've said in the past, she isn't the most instantly likeable character because she can come across as a bit standoffish, cold and ruthless and whilst I probably wouldn't want her as a boss, these are the things that ultimately make her such an enjoyable character to read about and her skills as a detective are what have made her become my favourite fictional female detective of all time, move over Tennison. And that, is something I never thought I would say in a million years. Lynda La Plante is the reason I love crime fiction so much and whilst there are many differences between Lynda and Angie, Kim and Jane Tennison, all four are the reasons that crime will always be my favourite genre. Talking similarities, I enjoy Lynda's books because of how believable the procedural element is, and how her characters behave in and out of the squad room and the same is true of this series. The team that Angie has created for this series is just one of my absolute favourites. They work brilliantly together, know each others flaws, and they have believable banter and camaraderie and, as you read, you feel like a part of the team yourself. There's always lots of light relief alongside the heavier stuff which is needed in a crime novel and we are given that relief from Kim and her investigative team.

Kim is an endlessly fascinating character to read about and her continuing character development is intriguing to witness and the way her backstory is interwoven seamlessly into the plot is brilliant. She's a character I genuinely care about as if I know her in real life. Her emotions are felt by the reader. At times you almost want to reach in and give her a hug, at the same time knowing she would never accept it. That said, to look at the Kim from Silent Scream and compare her with this one, you can see the changes that she is going through emotionally and this is some of my favourite ever character development and not just within the crime genre. Detectives who refuse to play by the book in crime fiction are commonplace, but Kim's doesn't give a shit attitude when it comes to things like ignoring the rule book and not listening to her superiors somehow manages to feel new and quite refreshing. Her ruthlessness is what makes her such a good detective, and her passion and need to solve a case, whether it's to apprehend a murderer or to bring a missing person home, is the reason why the reader is right alongside her from the very first page cheering her on. It's heartstopping stuff at times as I was reading this book I genuinely did become oblivious to what was happening in the outside world around me. Whilst I was reading this book, nothing else mattered.

I think this is the longest review/essay I have written where I have barely even got around to mentioning the plot but I don't even want to do the obligatory rehashing of the blurb. I will just say that once again Angie has written a truly gripping and, at times, terrifying story. Gripping because from the word go I wanted to know why bodies were being dumped on a research facility that looked into the effect of things like insects and environmental elements on bodies after death (the bodies having been donated for research) which just, if I'm honest, repulsed me. Again though, hugely fascinating and a truly atmospheric place to use for the dumping of bodies. Angie uses some descriptive and vivid writing which means that these uncomfortable scenes will remain in my memory for a while longer yet. And it was terrifying because once again it was a believable insight into some damaged minds and this time around it was scary because I never knew just what, or who, to believe and as the book moved along at a thrilling pace, I had some ideas knocking around in my mind and this time around I was probably about 40% correct. The other 60% creeped up on me, jumped out and well and truly slapped me on the face with a brilliant twist near the end.

Aside from putting this book into the hands of potential readers and forcing them to read it, I'm not sure what else I can say about Angie, Kim Stone or this series to convince the one (or possibly two) person who is yet to discover it to pick it up. Crime is a popular genre, but with popular genres comes many throwaway reads. Reads that you read and forget about almost instantly as you move onto the next one. As with any form of entertainment, that's not always a bad thing but that's not the case with this series. I can remember Silent Scream as vividly as if I read it yesterday. The sociopath from Evil Games is someone that still gives me chills to think about now and the families of Lost Girls still remain in my thoughts each time I pick up a book about missing children or read about them in the news. That's because these books feel real. The characters feel real. They, and the plot twists live on in my mind and I'm always wondering when I will be able to find the time to give them a reread because that's how good they are. You only have to look at the praise this series and author gets across social media and Amazon. Praise that is nothing but genuine and deserved and with the current discussions about reviews and their credibility, I couldn't be telling the truth more than when I say these books are some of the best crime fiction I have ever read. If you are yet to read them, please, go and do so right away. Play Dead is my Top Crime Novel of 2016 and I can see it becoming many other peoples' too. Just an absolutely flawless, faultless read and I cannot wait to read more from Angie and Kim.


  1. Great review.
    I definitely realise just how much you like this author!!
    I love Kim Stone too, such a great series.

  2. Wow, this is a big review - your feel for the character really shines through!


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