When Orenda Books decides to back an author, whether they write in - or are translated into - English, it’s wise to pay attention as they have an uncanny knack for finding and signing up writers of great quality in publishing’s busiest and most competitive genre. Rod Reynolds is no exception. Having gained plaudits aplenty for his excellent Charlie Yates 1940’s noir series; The Dark Inside, Black Night Falling and Cold Desert Sky, Reynolds then diverted to the brutal London-based stand-alone thriller, Blood Red City, and gained a long-listing for the CWA Steel Dagger for his troubles. Pivoting ‘back to black’ with Black Reed Bay, Reynolds introduces us to his newest creation, Detective Casey “Big Case” Wray, through a superbly crafted contemporary who-why-how-dunnit. Set in the fictitious Hampstead County - which bears a striking resemblance to Nassau County N.Y - on Long Island, with windswept Atlantic beaches and the cookie cutter beachfront McMansions of a comfortable community, each scene is imbued with a sense of location so real, you can feel the salt spray and neighbourly judgment sting your skin. On the face of it it’s a standard crime/thriller narrative: something bad happens and the police investigate. For some the female victim trope will rankle, but the story and cast are introduced with such nuance and style and then, credentials established, around the 100 page mark Reynolds moves up through the gears to deliver a beautifully paced, smartly plotted read that really delivers. And Wray? Well she is the real star of the story. Somewhere between Frances McDormand’s “Marge Gunderson” in Fargo and Helen Mirren as “Jane Tennison” in Prime Suspect; too good a human and too big hearted to be hard boiled, but à point cynical and with a great store of whip-crack one-liners. Mark these words, Reynolds is going to good places fast if he can repeat the magic of Black Reed Bay in his next few books. Join in and get reading, it’s going to be quite the journey.