Detective Chief Inspector Sophie Allen is Dorset's acknowledged expert on murder and violent crime, newly appointed to run the county's Serious and Violent Crime Unit. She is 42 years old as the series starts, and lives with her husband and younger daughter in Wareham. Her elder daughter is studying at drama college in London. Sophie has a law degree and a masters in criminal psychology. In novel 7 (Shadow Crimes) we learn of her recent promotion to Detective Superintendent.

Detective Sergeant Barry Marsh is in his early thirties and in Dark Crimes, the first novel, is based at Swanage police station. He's quiet yet dedicated, the perfect foil for Sophie's hidden fragility. Barry joins her team as a permanent member in the third novel, Secret Crimes, and takes an increasingly important role as the series progresses. He starts dating DS Gwen Davis, from Southampton CID, in novel 3 and the couple get engaged at the end of novel 5. Barry is promoted to Detective Inspector (DI) in novel 8, Silent Crimes.

Dectective Constable Rae Gregson joins the unit in the third novel (Secret Crimes) to replace Lydia. Rae is very talented and extremely dedicated. Her transgender background is of little consequence in her first case but in Buried Crimes she is bullied by Neil Dunnett. Rae then settles into the team and makes major contributions in all subsequent investigations. She is promoted to Detective Sergeant (DS) in novel 9, Ruthless Crimes.

Sergeant Rose Simons is a uniformed officer based in the market town of Blandford Forum with her sidekick, the rookie Constable George Warrander. Rose has an offbeat sense of humour and shows a cynical attitude, but she is a first rate cop. She mothers George a little too much. These two characters appear for the first time in novel 5 but then play significant roles in all later novels.

Detective Constable Jimmy Melsom is also based in Swanage at the start of the series. He has only recently joined the CID, and is a little gung-ho in his attitude to crime investigation. On the closure of his local police station at Swanage, Sophie helps him to land a transfer to Bournemouth CID at the end of novel 3. He plays a more prominent role in novel 7.

Detective Constable Lydia Pillay is a talented young officer based with DCI Allen at Dorset County police HQ. We learn near the start of Secret Crimes that she has left the unit, unable to overcome her suspicion that Sophie was the perpetrator of a serious assault in the previous novel. Lydia does still appear occasionally in some of the subsequent novels, and resurfaces in a big way when she lands a Detective Sergeant (DS) role in Bournemouth under Kevin McGreedie and takes a major role in novel 7.

Detective Inspector Kevin McGreedie is attached to the Bournemouth and Poole division of Dorset police. His assistant in the early novels is DS Bob Thomson. He is joined by Jimmy Melsom on transfer from Swanage at the end of the third novel, and Lydia Pillay in novel 7, where she takes the vacant DS role.

Detective Superintendent Matt Silver is Sophie's immediate boss. He helped to appoint her to lead the Violent Crime Unit but, to his regret, has a largely administrative role in the county police hierarchy. Matt gains promotion to Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS) in novel 5.

Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Dunnett is the overall commander. at the start of the series. He clashes with Sophie in the first novel Dark Crimes and does so again, with serious consequences, in the fourth novel  (Buried Crimes). The source of the antagonism is not clear, but he lacks field experience as a violent crime investigator so his meddling rarely helps progress. Dunnett leaves during novel 4, to be replaced by a promoted Matt Silver (see above).

Susan Carswell is DCI Allen's mother. She is the practice manager of a GP surgery in Bristol. She has an important minor role in Deadly Crimes, as Sophie discovers what really happened to her long lost father. Susan finally decides to marry her longtime boyfriend, Bill, announcing the news in novel 6, Evil Crimes. The marriage takes place during novel 7.

Sophie has two daughters. Jade is fifteen in the first novel, and appears in most of the subsequent stories. She has an interesting personality, as you will soon spot. Hannah, the elder daughter, is a drama student in London. She is quieter in her approach to life. She appears as a minor character in the first novel, but has a more important role in Buried Crimes. She is also closely involved in novel 8.

Martin Allen is Sophie's husband. He is Head of the Mathematics Department at a large secondary school in Dorchester. From the fourth novel onwards he also holds the role of Assistant Principal. Martin has a minor, but very supportive, role in the novels. He and Sophie met while at university.

Benny Goodall is Dorset's senior pathologist, and carries out most of the Post Mortem examinations of murder victims. He shared a house with both Sophie and Martin while the three were at university together, and was best man at the couple's wedding.


Page updated: December 2020