What if I told you,’ he said, ‘that I believe my mother’s life to be in danger?’
Robertson Bennet returns to Edinburgh after a 25 year absence in search of his parents and his inheritance. But both have disappeared. A quick, routine police check should be enough – and Detective Inspector Helen Birch has enough on her plate trying to help her brother, Charlie, after an assault in prison. But all her instincts tell her not to let this case go. And so she digs.
George and Phamie Bennet were together for a long time. No one can ever really know the secrets kept between husband and wife. But as Birch slowly begins to unravel the truth, terrible crimes start to rise to the surface.
After all the trials of planning a post lockdown return to the classroom, I felt like spending our first weekend curled up relaxing with a fabulous read – and Cover Your Tracks was just the ticket. I’ve been waiting for the next Helen Birch novel to be published ever since I finished What You Pay For and spending the day in my reading nook getting stuck into Cover Your Tracks was every bit as enjoyable as I’d anticipated and as ever I’m grateful to Jenny Platt for inviting me on the tour and for always picking the best books to blog about
Edinburgh might look like a graceful and tranquil place where nothing bad could ever happen, on the surface – but once again Claire Askew lifts the lid on some of the murkier goings that you might be totally unaware of. I love the interplay between DI Helen Birch and Amy Kato and this third book really builds on the strengths of its predecessors – whilst this could absolutely be read as a stand-alone, the fact that I was already so invested in these women and their lives added another dimension of enjoyment for me as I immersed myself in the third instalment of their crime fighting adventures
As ever, life for DI Birch is never dull and it’s one of the things that I love about Claire Askew’s writing that we manage to be just as caught up and interested in all of the threads of her story rather than waiting to return to the ‘main one’ when we are away from it – as can be the case for so many crime writers. I was totally engaged with the further developments in Helen’s own rather dysfunctional family as we see the impact of her brother’s illness and her father resurfacing again after so long. Her relationship with Charlie her brother is one of the many aspects of this novel that are just superbly written and I also love the way that her relationship with lawyer Anjan is progressing . Life for Helen is far from dull on a professional note either and she and Amy could never have predicted the way that this case would begin to unfold when the hugely dislikable Robertson Bennett turns up in search of his missing parents and things really begin to go awry…
Claire Askew knows just when to switch from one thread of the story to another that leaves us hungrily turning the pages and forgetting about the time. She never sacrifices character in the name of plot and that’s why time just flies when you’re reading her books. You want to know the answers, yes for sure – but you also want to know how this impacts on Helen too as we really feel that we’ve got to know her as a person. DI Birch is a character whose life is complex and three dimensional, her problems are the ones caused by the demands of her job, of course – but also the problems that we’ve all struggled with in terms of our life choices and our complex relationship with our families that make her feel like somebody we know and someone we care about to boot. I found myself wondering about her as I went through the day whenever I was away from the book and for me that is one of the hallmarks of an excellent rather than just enjoyable read.
Claire Askew asks us to think about a range of issues in the novel but as ever she writes best about the way we connect with other people – this novel makes you appreciate the way that we often are totally unaware of the way that our actions can impact on those closest to us. Her words frequently sing off the page and you can definitely feel her love and appreciation for poetry as you read. This is so much more than a page turner and you will see that as soon as you start reading. I am sucker for a book that makes me take a place I love and see it afresh and this book does so, in spades. If you are an Edinburgh dweller you will see it in a whole new light, and if you have never been, you’ll be booking your plane ticket.
As a feminist, it’s wonderful to read a novel that contains such a strong cast of women who very much take the lead and prove the adage that the best man for the job is, very often, a woman. It’s satisfying to see both Amy and Helen’s personalities mature and diversify in this second novel. They are far greater than the sum of their parts and there are aspects of them all that I connected with -although in this book that it’s definitely Helen’s travails that I’m most drawn to as her family is definitely not the easiest to deal with and I was so glad that Amy and Anjan were there for her to rely in and sound off to in order to cope with the way that this case twists turns and evolves.
This book will be sure to please people who already love DI Birch with its intriguing and satisfying blend of a family drama, a compelling case and a satisfyingly tense narrative. It kept me absolutely hooked and I cannot wait to see what unfolds next for Helen.
Buy yourself a copy here and set aside some time to really enjoy it. It’s a perfect late summer read which will make you think as well as care about its cast of characters and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Writer on the Shelf
Claire Askew is a poet, novelist and the Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Her debut novel in progress was the winner of the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and longlisted for the 2014 Peggy Chapman – Andrews (Bridport) Novel Award. Claire holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and has won a variety of accolades for her work, including the Jessie Kesson Fellowship and a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award. All the Hidden Truths was longlisted for two CWA Daggers: Gold (best novel) and John Creasey (best debut).
Her debut poetry collection, This changes things, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016 and shortlisted for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and a Saltire First Book Award. In 2016 Claire was selected as a Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion, and she works as the Scotland tutor for women’s writing initiatives Write Like a Grrrl and #GrrrlCon. Cover Your Tracks is her third novel.
Thank you to Jenny Platt for inviting me on the Blog Tour, make sure you check out what these other fantastic bloggers thought too!