DI Helen Birch has the morning off work. After visiting her brother Charlie in prison, she plans a quiet day at the station followed by dinner with her partner, Anjan. Those plans are shattered when a gun man starts to shoot at a farm show. It soon becomes apparent he has a hostage and will only speak to Birch. She soon finds herself staring down the barrel of a shotgun, unarmed and alone with a killer.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
The story is engaging. The reader knows who the perpetrator is but doesn’t know why he has caused the events that lead to him being surrounded by armed officers. As the pages turn the reader finds out more about events from the past that have led to the shooting. The reader is pulled along as the frantic hours pass by. The scenes are vividly portrayed. I could easily imagine the remote area where the hostage scene takes place, see the disapproving women making drinks for the police, see armed officers wandering the perimeter they had created and almost hear the whir of the police helicopters hovering overhead.
By 5pm, a siege is underway.

The story is written over 24 hours, each chapter focusing on one of those hours. This no doubt helps the fast pace set by the narrative, as the scenes shift between the gunman and the police. There are shorter chapters interspersed with longer ones which also maintains the pace.
This is the fourth book in the Helen Birch series but can be read as a standalone. Yes, there are references to the cases in the previous books but nothing to spoil the enjoyment of reading those, which I plan to do very soon.
Source – review copy
There is very much a closed room feel to the novel. The cast of characters are limited and the main focus of the narrative is on Helen and the gunman, Gerry. There is also time for introspection from Helen, for her to assess her relationships with Charlie, Anjan and her father Jamieson.
Publication date – 10 March 2022
At 1pm, the police establish the gunman has a hostage.
At 8am the first shots are fired.
At 9pm, DI Helen Birch walks, alone and unarmed, into an abandoned Borders farmhouse to negotiate with the killer.

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