Dear Reader,

Let me introduce you to Hidden Harm, the first book in the Gartside series, which follows the work of forensic social worker Tom Collins as he strives to uncover the truths at the heart of the complex families he has to both help and investigate. Part crime thriller, part family psychological drama, Hidden Harm provides a unique perspective on the crimes that go on in the secret silence of family homes.

Just as you won’t have come across a social worker like Tom Collins, a head-strong crusader whose desire for justice takes him well outside the realms of normal casework, nor,  like Collins, will you have encountered a perpetrator as sadistic as Alex Chilcott; a man whose violent tyranny at home is matched by his deeds when he slips out to the Gartside estate under cover of dark.

Hidden Harm is the product of the twenty years I spent as a social worker trying to keep kids safe while unpicking the facts from the fantasies of their sometimes dangerous parents; among them people who would do anything to keep their activities from the eyes of the police and social workers. I have had non-fiction published on subjects such as 'troubled' and 'troublesome' children and have had a successful career developing services that keep children safe and help them to thrive. I therefore bring a specialist insight, which has thus far received little attention in fiction, and a new lens to crime writing which readers who have reviewed the book have found compelling.

I am sure that Hidden Harm will grip you. There is an urgency to the narrative that draws you into the lives of the protagonists, within a plot which interweaves the central investigation into the Chilcott family with the personal crises playing out for the main character Tom Collins. In order to resolve his own family dramas, Collins must first get to the bottom of the Chilcotts’, and in doing so he has to risk his career. While the subject matter is often dark I have tried to counterbalance this with attention to empathy, kindness and humour. The novel moves at pace but still captures the essential qualities of relationships, both functional and dysfunctional, that are the real dynamo of the narrative.

In the course of the book, a cast of characters is established in a setting, the Gartside, which I’m sure you will want to return to in the course of further novels.

For now I hope you enjoy the first of the series, Hidden Harm