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There’s no point beating about the bush – it was with some trepidation I agreed to read and review Dead Inside, from debut novelist Noelle Holten.

Because, although I’ve never met Noelle – and probably wouldn’t recognise her if we tripped over each other in the street – I do know her through membership of various social media readers groups, where lots of other members have been raving about the book, the first in a new crime thriller series.

So, does Dead Inside live up to the advance billing?

It sure does: the plot is twisty and thought-provoking and Noelle, who was a senior probation office for 18 years, provides real insights into the working partnership between the police and probation services.

Readers meet DC Maggie Jamieson on her first day in Staffordshire’s newly-formed Domestic Abuse and Homicide Unit, where she quickly becomes embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer, whose targets are all guilty of domestic abuse.

Dark Secret

The prime suspect is Maggie’s colleague, probation officer Lucy Sherwood, whose work with such offenders has left her with little sympathy for the men – and, occasionally, the women – who duck responsibility for their violent actions claiming alcohol or drugs ‘made them’ do it.

But, Lucy is hiding a dark secret – she’s also in an abusive relationship and, when her husband becomes the fourth victim, the case against her seems watertight.

But is Maggie’s friend really a cold-blooded killer?

Noelle, an award-winning blogger at crimebookjunkie.co.uk and PR and social media manager for Bookouture, a leading UK digital publisher, writes fluently – as you’d expect from someone with her background – and has created an array of vibrant characters.

Her choice of a multi-viewpoint narrative makes for an interesting read.

Most of the story is told from the perspective of principal characters Maggie and Lucy, but Holten also puts the abusers centre stage.

Taking a peek inside their heads doesn’t excuse or justify their aggression – however much they seem to believe ‘it’s not my fault’ – but it does provide insights into why they behave the way they do.

More significantly, it also highlights the difficulties faced by police and probation officers who have to pick up the pieces afterwards.

Overall, Dead Inside is a promising series opener and I look forward to reading about Maggie’s next case.

Review by Sue Featherstone.

Available to buy on Amazon.

Follow Noelle Holten on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Instagram. Visit her blog at crimebookjunkie.co.uk