Shallow Waters (DI Hannah Robbins 1) by Rebecca Bradley

A strong debut…

I have a cast-iron rule that I don’t review the books of people I know. There are several reasons for this, which I may witter about in more depth at some point. But one of the main reasons is that knowing the author is obviously going to lead to bias in the review – I defy anyone to say that they can give a genuinely unbiased opinion of a book of a friend.

Since Rebecca is an online friend of mine the following comments on her book are therefore inevitably biased – a commentary rather than a review. Nonetheless I’ll attempt to be as honest as I can…

* * * * * * *

shallow watersWe first meet DI Hannah Robbins when she is called to attend a crime scene. The body of a teenage girl has been found – naked, bruised and battered. The girl has been sexually abused and then strangled. The pressure is already on Hannah and her team to solve the case quickly, but when a second body is found it becomes a race to find the perpetrator before any more murders are committed…

First off, this is a darker tale than I am generally comfortable with. When telling a story of sexual abuse and torture, particularly of children, it has to be handled with a good deal of sensitivity to avoid becoming unpleasantly gruesome and even voyeuristic. Fortunately Rebecca has avoided this pitfall on the whole – although it is made clear what has happened to the girls, she doesn’t dwell too much on the details. The emphasis is much more on Hannah and the investigation, with only small sections devoted to describing the abuse of the victims, and even then Rebecca steers clear of being overly graphic.

Hannah’s character is developed well – she is a dedicated and professional officer, and while she likes her red wine a bit too much, she’s certainly not a stereotypical drunken maverick. When we meet her, she is in a fairly new relationship with Ethan, a crime journalist with the Nottingham Reporter, and we see her struggling to maintain her professional discretion while needing to have someone she can talk to so she can wind down at the end of the day. Ethan’s character is nicely ambiguous – we’re never quite sure if he’s only involved with Hannah to see if he can get any inside information out of her. The other members of Hannah’s team are interesting, and leave plenty of room for further development in future books. I enjoyed that the whole team were shown as professionals – although there is a little bit of departmental politics, it’s clear everyone is trying to do their best to achieve the same end. I felt, however, that the overall tone of the characterisation was perhaps a bit bleak – I’d have liked to have seen a bit of humour to break up the darkness occasionally. Sometimes I felt we got too much information about Hannah’s feelings about the crimes – some of the work could have been left up to the reader.

Rebecca Bradley
Rebecca Bradley

The plotting is strong and well-paced, and builds up to an unexpected and dramatic climax. I didn’t work out whodunit (I had my suspicions, but was completely wrong) but when it was revealed and I looked back, I felt Rebecca had given us the clues quite fairly, and had managed effectively to misdirect.

Overall the book is well written, and the second half particularly swept me along. There are a few grammatical errors, and the occasional use of regional colloquialisms in the main body of the text jarred me out of the flow from time to time – both common faults with self-published books. The book is written mainly in the first person from Hannah’s viewpoint, but there are occasional sections in the third person – when we switch to the victims, which works well, and occasionally when we go to the viewpoint of another police officer, which in my view didn’t work nearly as well, though I could see why it was done that way. Again it had the effect of breaking the flow a bit. Written in the past tense (hurrah!), the book very occasionally slips into the present tense for the briefest of periods in mid-flow, and I couldn’t quite see the reason for this. But once I had become fully absorbed in the plot, these small problems were easily overlooked and I found myself well and truly hooked.

A strong debut, and I genuinely look forward to seeing how Hannah – and Rebecca – develop in future books. If I was reviewing it, which I’m not, it’d get a 😀 😀 😀 🙂 rating from me…

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

37 thoughts on “Shallow Waters (DI Hannah Robbins 1) by Rebecca Bradley

  1. This sounds like a very promising book and a very big well done to Rebecca for self-publishing! I think your review came across as honest and genuine, FF, so well done to you, too. Wine and chocolates all round 🙂

    • Thanks – wine and chocolates sounds perfect! Yes it’s always a worry reading the first book of a friend – phew! Thank goodness it’s a good one! Or maybe that should be – thank Rebecca… 🙂

  2. Rebecca has a novel out? And I didn’t know about it? Oh dear, I feel like a major Twitter friend, but I absolutely love everything about the book. Off I go to nudge Rebecca out for a review copy 😀

  3. Awesome review, FEF–as always. You’re top at this. But what is regional colloquialism? Sounds sorta like a heart disease, or something quite wicked.

    I’m actually reading a crime book at the moment, about this horrid serial-killer. He drills thorough his victim’s heels, hangs them up, and drains their blood! Yes, I’m thoroughly disgusted.

  4. A great review FF and I agree that it is far harder to remain objective when you ‘know’ the author. I really liked this one although it used a more gruesome subject matter than I expected from Rebecca, she writes such lovely posts!

    • Thanks, Cleo! Yes, it’s darker than my usual fare too, but she handled it well. It’s always the innocent-lookng ones though – look at Jane Casey. She looks sweet too… 😉

  5. Sounds an interesting start. I always prefer books where the police are believable – most of the ones I know are quite sane and better-behaved than most groups of people.

  6. Well, despite your bias, I think you gave this a book a truly fair review. So kudos for that! And kudos to the author who sounds like she did her homework and gave this book a strong self-publishing effort. This doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but if it were, I’d be clicking the “buy now” button.

    • Thanks Jilanne! I must admit I always worry when reading the first book of a friend. And since I hate the ‘glowing 5-star from a friend’ reviews, I felt I had to try to be honest. Thank goodness the book is good! But I agree – probably not your kind of thing. I’m really looking forward to reading the second one now though, even though the series looks like it’ll be darker than I usually go for… 🙂

  7. Good job! I’ve never had to review the book of someone I know, but I have had many times had mini panic attacks when I realized that the author had read my post. Always a difficult situation, but well handled!

    • Thanks Anna! I’ve always tried to avoid it like the plague I must admit, but I’ve got to know so many writers since I started blogging and somehow it seems unfair NOT to review their books! Haha! The first time I discovered an author had read one of my reviews, I nearly died! Thankfully I’d been very complimentary, but it left me nervous for ages…

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