Heartlands by Kerry Watts

This had great potential, with some really interesting characters and an emotional crime, although I felt the vast amount of characters was slightly confusing.

Twenty years ago, Sophie Nicoll never came home from school. Days later her body was found in a shallow grave on a remote farm a few miles from her hometown. Two boys from her school were found guilty. The press called the boys evil. Sophie’s family wanted them dead. The judge promised they’d never walk free.
Two decades later and schoolgirl Shannon Ross has vanished from a small town in the Scottish Highlands.
It’s Detective Jessie Blake’s first big case since she joined Perthshire Police. Having recently arrived from London, Jessie lives in fear of people finding out about her past and her reasons for moving north.
When Shannon’s body is found in the river on the outskirts of Inverlochty, Jessie discovers she’s not the only one with something to hide. As the small community begins to crack under pressure, people begin to point fingers. And soon, the big secrets hidden within the small town are revealed – with devastating consequences.

This story started off quite strongly, with an intriguing insight into the two boys responsible for the death of Sophie Nicoll. It was interesting seeing the perspective of Daniel, and he was written so well that I still don’t feel like I fully understand him, but in a positive way. He’s a dark character, but he had moments where he seemed really human, and so he was a fascinating character to start with. The prologue is genuinely really shocking, and it’s a great start to the novel.

However, I found the transition between timelines really hard to follow, and it wasn’t immediately clear to me that we had jumped forward. This was quite disorientating, and I feel like there could have been more of an effort to distinguish between timelines in some way. Once I got to grips with this it was interesting seeing some of the connections between the years become more apparent, especially with the introduction of the journalist following both stories.

The four parents were a strong core, with Louise’s grief coming through very strongly, and Jason’s anger painful to watch. However, (spoiler alert) I just found Rob’s true past slightly hard to believe, as there appeared to be little connection between his previous life and present life. I understand the idea of a reformed man, but it was a hard connection to make, and I wished more time had been spent on developing this further. I liked the main detective, I thought Jessie Blake was a solid character, with a great sense of justice and a stubborn determination to solve the crime. Her partner, Dylan, was also great, and they were a brilliant team.

I liked the detectives, and thought some of the characters were written really well, but overall this wasn’t my favourite, and I wished more time had been spent on connecting the past with the present.

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