A Thrilling Psychological Crime Novel – 4 Stars
This is my first book by S.J. Bolton and you can colour me impressed. Her writing style and characterization reminded me of Tana French, another masterful psychological crime writer. Like French, Bolton’s main character is a flawed individual with a mountain of baggage and secrets to hide. She is single-minded, intelligent and broken. While I would easily recommend this book, the plot, story and pacing leave something to be desired. Had the writing been cleaner and the story more organized, this would have been an easy 5 stars.
The story begins with our main character, Detective Constable Lacey Flint stumbling upon a dying woman. The woman had been savagely cut and died on the scene. Given the nature of the woman’s injuries, it became clear that Lacey had missed the killer by mere seconds. This first murder is the first in a string of gruesome murders across the city copying the killings of the infamous “Jack the Ripper”. The copycat killer is intent on involving Lacey and it is clear this is personal. As the investigation unfolds, Lacey’s past becomes entangled with her present and threatens to destroy the life she has built.
Gotta Love Her
Lacey, the main character, is beautifully developed and nuanced. She is bright but stand-offish, driven yet broken. She is hiding secrets that are revealed as the story unfolds. Nothing boosts a novel more than wonderfully developed characters. The reader is confronted with Lacey’s flaws, her attempts to hide them and her bad decisions stemming from them. In my opinion, flawed characters are much more interesting and realistic which leads to more interesting story development. Like the aforementioned Tana French, the story is largely character driven and this character does not disappoint.
He’s Coming to get You
Despite the problems I had with the some elements of the writing and story, the overall plot was exciting and engaging. Despite drawing on the well trodden ground of the worlds most famous murders (the Jack the Ripper Killings if you were wondering), the plot does not feel old or stale. As the author has made the killings very personal to Lacey, much of the excitement comes as the Lacey’s world begin to collide. The overall mystery is not complex and there is some diversion to throw you off the track. While some people may find this to be disappointing, I did not mind. The story was driven by the character of Lacey Flint and while the mystery was interesting, it was secondary to character.
The Lady can Write
S.J. Bolton writes an effortless and engaging prose. The writing is accessible to the reader without being simplistic. Her writing draws you into the world that she created and the City of London and surrounding cities come alive. She can certainly turn a phrase which allows the reader to have both a entertaining and “literary” experience.
Its Done Already?
This story packs a lot into approximately 400 pages. This is one the rare occasions that it seemed the book would have benefited with another 100 pages. While the author does not lack the ability to write and the plot was interesting, the story development was both rushed and occasionally sloppy. The story begins as a police procedural and we follow along with the steps in the investigation. Then suddenly, we skip 4 or 5 days and the previous step in the investigation is left hanging. At one point I became convinced I must be listening to an abridged version of the story but upon a second look it was in fact unabridged. This stuttered pacing hurt my rating. It felt as if the author was racing to get her story finished. As a result, secondary characters and the relationships were not nearly as developed as Lacey. For example, we meet the lead investigator and a friendship is formed with Lacey. Then, without explanation, the character disappears and we only hear of her second hand. This happens on more than one occasion. It was frustrating for this reader.
On top of this, the story was hurt by a glaring plot problem. I guess you will have to read it to find out what it is, I don’t want to ruin it for you!
Despite its warts, the novel was excellent and receives my recommendation. This novel is “Tana French Lite” in my view and I am happy to have this series to complete while I am waiting for Ms. French’s next novel. There are other elements that may effect your enjoyment of the story but they are listed in the content advisory.
I listened to the audiobook version of this book. The author was a 5 star narrator. The female narrator did an excellent job with the male voices. She used minor changes in inflection to mark a male voice instead of attempting to speak in low tone. Her voice was pleasing and her British accent was easy on the ears. Recommended in the audiobook format.
It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 3
Some of the sexual content is explored in greater detail under violence. Suffice to say, there is a theme of sexual assault. The Main Character is interested in investigation sexual assault and this is dealt with on several occasions. There is some elements of sexual assault related to the killings. There are a couple of moderately graphic descriptions of rape but the scenes are short. Readers who are not comfortable with sexual assault themes should avoid this story.
Language – 3
While the use of religious exclamations and mild obscenities is low, there is a low use of the f-word. I felt the usage was significant enough to bring this rating to 3.
Violence – 5
There is a string of murders by a serial killer. Each of these murders are gruesome in nature and the descriptions are moderate to highly graphic. Had there been one murder, this would have garnered a four but considering the multiple descriptions of multiple murders, the graphic nature could be very disturbing to some readers. There is moderate amount of sexual violence. One of the underlying stories revolves around a historical rape and the main character is investigating current day gang rape. One of the murders involved a suspected sexual assault and a body being sexually impaled by a foreign object after death. Each of these murders was to copy a Jack the Ripper killing. Suffice to say, the content is graphic and some readers will be disturbed.