The Man on Hackpen Hill
by J.S. Monroe
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Pub Date 02 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 02 Sep 2021
An original, intelligent and twisty thriller set in rural Wiltshire. A dead body in a crop circle sends a coded message. Can DI Silas Hart uncover the chilling truth before its too late?
It isn't unusual for crop circles to appear overnight on Hackpen Hill. In this part of Wiltshire, where golden wheat fields stretch for miles, the locals have got used to discovering strange mathematical patterns stamped into the earth.
But this time, it's different. Not only because this particular design of dramatic spiralling hexagons has never been seen before. But because of the dead body positioned precisely in the centre of the circle. DI Silas Hart, of Swindon Police, is at a loss.
Only Jim, a scientist at secretive government laboratory Porton Down, knows the chilling truth about the man on Hackpen Hill. And he wants Bella, a trainee journalist on her first ever story, to tell the world. But Silas has other ideas – and a boss intent on a cover up.
As Bella and Jim race against time, dark forces conspire against them, leading them to confront the reality of their own past and a world in which nothing is as it seems.
Reviews for J.S. Monroe:
'Full of unpredictable twists' The Times
'Intricately woven and heart-stoppingly believable' Clare Mackintosh
'The most ingenious thriller you will read this year' M.J. Arlidge
'Cunning, captivating and creepy' J.P. Delaney
'A tightly coiled and crafted plot' Daily Mail
'Pacy and propulsive' Daily Telegraph
'You won't be able to turn the pages fast enough' Heat
'Clever, imaginative and unusual' Daily Mail
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 32 members
4.5 stars rounded up.
Bella leaves a small Oxford College after studying for three years, she senses there’s something wrong as her mother drives her home but she can not grasp what it could be. She starts work experience at a newspaper and is sent a mysterious letter telling her to go to ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ pub in Wiltshire. There she meets Jim Matthews who works at Porton Down. Coincidentally, maybe, DI Silas Hart is summoned to a complex crop circle below Hackpen Hill where a dead body of a young man lies in the centre. The story is told from these three perspectives.
This is an extremely good combination of a police investigation with an excellent thriller element. It’s an incredibly well researched book and though the maths, science and medical science goes over the top of my head to a certain extent it gives a great feeling of authenticity to the novel. The plot is a very clever puzzle with crop circles, their codes, patterns and cryptic messages, spooks, the secretive world of Porton Down with chemical warfare and experimentation and it also examines treatments for mental illness such as schizophrenia. This may sound busy but in fact it dovetails really well and forms a cohesive, intelligent and fast paced plot. I like the short sharp chapters which add to the tension as the case deepens and becomes a real challenge to them all. The characters are very good and the author gives us a good blend of an exciting storyline combined with the personal stories of all three. DC Strover is a really good and immensely knowledgeable sidekick to Silas. There is some powerful imagery throughout the storytelling which keeps you fascinated with no desire to put the book down! It all builds well to a believable conclusion and I like how the end is imperfect and not tied neatly in a bow.
Overall, this is a compelling and absorbing read. It does veer towards the dark side at times and on occasion it shocks as it should and it makes you feel sadness for the victims of an audacious and unscrupulous plan.
With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Head of Zeus for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.
I am already a huge fan of this author and Di Silas character. This was fantastic and dark and creepy. Not for the faint hearted. Highly recommended xxx
I'm already a big fan of the DI Silas Hart & Strover cases and this was realllly chilling!!!
"It isn't unusual for crop circles to appear overnight on Hackpen Hill. In this part of Wiltshire, where golden wheat fields stretch for miles, the locals have got used to discovering strange mathematical patterns stamped into the earth"
What then transpires is a twisty, thrilling chase to work out what is going on when the very "unusually" dead bodies are found in the middle of these crop circles!
It is commendable the amount of knowledge I took from this book regarding chemistry/maths/ crop circles and Portion Down- which I was completely unaware of at 31years of age- even though I live down the road from it in Bristol!. It's been really well thought out and J S Monroe has done ALOT of research into the storyline he wanted to create here. No stone was left unturned and everything written didn't feel too far fetched. It was compelling reading.
JS Monroe has also highlighted throughout mental illness awareness and symptoms that I wouldn't of else known not having read 'The Man On Hackpen Hill'.
On top of this I got some great ideas of locations I'd quite like to visit this summer such as Swanage and Studland Bay!!!
I absolutely loved the main characters aside from Hart & Strover in this book and Loved Bella's & Jim's storylines equally, you kind of had an underlying inkling of where their stories were leading with some shocking plot twists that I didn't see coming! I was on edge for both of them come the ending of the story and was utterly fascinated and gripped by the whole thing!!!
Pleasssssssse do more DI Silas Hart Thrillers asap!! A full 5 Gripping, Well Deserved Stars for "The Man On Hackpen Hill" *****
I received this book from Head of Zeus and Netgalley for a review. A clever murder mystery which keeps you guessing till the reveal, then even more twists loved it.
“A dead body in a crop circle sends a coded message”
I haven’t read too many of the flurry of post Coronavirus pandemic books, as I just know that some are going to be much better than others – but boy oh boy! This has to be one of the best!!
I deliberately chose to download this one, first and foremost, because I have to admit that I had a vested interest in this story long before I even opened the cover on my Kindle. It is set in a location I know so well, having been born and raised in Swindon, a mere couple of miles from Hackpen Hill. When we were first married we lived up on the edge of the Cotswolds, so Oxford was our local ‘stamping ground’. We now live just as close in the opposite direction and within a virtual stones throw of Porton Down, near to Salisbury. I therefore found myself trying to catch the author out with his continuity of place names and journey times, but this storyline has been so well researched and authentically presented, with an obvious enthusiasm that doesn’t take prisoners, so there was not much chance of me finding fault, leaving me able to enjoy a lovely trip down memory lane, although the Swindon Police HQ has been relocated to Gable Cross since I moved away and is no longer a central feature and deterrent in the heart of the town.
Those were about the only parts which were lovely though, as this story hit the ground running from those very first opening lines, with the action and suspense being relentless right until the last, when an ending which was carefully considered, gently brought down the pace and offered peace and hope for the future, for Bella and Jim. Some short, punchy chapters kept the gathering momentum of the storyline evenly paced and fluid; seen, heard and told as it was, through the eyes, ears and voices of the three main protagonists, Bella, Jim and DI Silas Hart.
Crop circles have formed a large and important part of the narrative of the Wiltshire landscape from as far back as I can remember, including the wrath and ire they invoke within the local farming community, for the damage and havoc they can wreak on a crop. Also, having a husband who is ex-military, the concept of the Porton Down “£15 help us find a cure for the common cold” which used to be offered to serving service personnel, is legendary! However, this book raises the game of both strands of local folklore, to a totally different, elevated and nauseatingly twisted level, then deftly weaves them together, with the addition of an unscrupulous US pharmaceutical company, into a tale of chilling proportions, which plays with the minds and emotions of protagonists and readers alike. Nothing is what it seems in the distorted reality of this disparate cast of characters and it is left to DI Silas Hart and DC Strover to unravel fact from fiction, truth from lie, reality from imagination, as they try to bust open a cartel which has already destroyed so many lives. I wonder if perhaps in these times of the whistle-blower culture , a beleaguered Porton Down might, on this occasion, come away with some of its reputation and code of ethics as a protector of the country, intact?
Supremely dark and intensely multi-faceted; wonderfully researched and authentic; compelling and gripping; sympathetically nuanced and told with real heart. The immersive qualities an author who is skilled in the imagery of words and the art of storytelling can engender, makes reading this book both a delight and a troubling experience, at one and the same time. A penetrating and profoundly touching study in human behaviour, encompassing mental health issues and the power of drug induced mind manipulation, whilst never loosing sight of the overarching crime thriller storyline at its core.
The author has created a cast of characters, which aside from the Swindon CID team, are definitely not what they seem to all outward appearances, but I dare you spot the anomalies and join up all the dots. So well have they all been drawn and defined, so genuinely believable, so raw and passionate, they totally had me fooled, right until the bitter end. Complex, emotionally damaged, desperately driven by imagined and instilled beliefs and reactions, all of which made them difficult to relate to or invest in, until unfolding events turn everything on its head and the devastation wrought by an unscrupulous few individuals becomes terrifyingly apparent, to them and me.
Oh! and the ‘locals’ in the village pub, ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ (not the real name of a pub in this area from what I can ascertain, but I would love to know on which establishment it is based) are probably quite fairly representative of this rural, insular corner of the county, although perhaps I shouldn’t admit to that and I defy most people to find it anything other than a struggle to relate or become engaged with them, they do have their own particularly unique customs and ‘quirky’ ways!
Hart and Strover are a new team of detectives to the world of crime fiction, but to my thinking, they really do warrant and demand a series of their own, so well do they gel and work together. Keen to encourage his young protegee, in a CID section he considers to be too male dominated, Hart not only gives a methodical, process driven and ‘nerdy’ Strover a free reign during the course of the investigation, but he also refreshingly, finds himself actually listening, being informed and acting on, her attention to detail. As the investigation progresses, it does transpire that Hart has more than a purely professional interest in this case, which sets his policing and parental responsibilities, rather at odds with each other. Happily, they do not collide too spectacularly and the outcome should also help his family get back on track, as like all fictional detectives, he does carry an inordinate amount of emotional baggage and leads a complicated and turbulent home life.
From a purely personal point of view, part of the joy of reading, is the unique and individual journey a book takes me on and The Man On Hackpen Hill, is so much more than a daring crime thriller – Where will your journey take you?
My thanks to NetGalley And Head Of Zeus for a copy of “The Man On Hackpin Hill “ for an honest review .
This book was thrilling and suspenseful and kept me guessing right up to the end.
It was well written and I liked the short chapters , which really built up the tension..
I have read books by Monroe before , but I don’t think that’s necessary to enjoy this one.
Recommended for a fast paced thought provoking read.
This story has an intrinsic sense of authenticity, which is in itself chilling given the disturbing elements it explores. It features the detective team of Silas and Strover, a familiar combination if you've read the authors other psychological thrillers. It begins with a disquieting prologue that sets the scene for what follows. Bella leaves Oxford for a fledgling career in journalism. Her complex past unfolds as the story progresses. Silas and Strover are investigating a death in a crop circle which leads them into the fields of secret laboratories and mental health issues. Jim meets Bella in a Wiltshire pub, accidentally he believes at first.
The story is told from these points of view. The police investigation is absorbing and allows the reader to make their deductions. Bella and Jim are both unreliable protagonists, but they are easy to empathise with. The plot is fast-paced with its short chapters. The use of sensory imagery makes the events easy to imagine. The plot twists are impactful. The story changes perspective dramatically but realistically and is addictive reading. The climactic ending is satisfying, delivering action, poignancy and positivity for the main protagonists.
I received a copy of this book from 'Head of Zeus' in return for an honest review.
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